Many of the natural traumas of childbirth, such as those sustained by a fetus as a result of the mother’s contractions or the journey through the birth canal, are unavoidable and, thus, unrelated to medical malpractice or negligence. A great many preventable birth injuries can occur, however, as a result of inadequate medical care during pregnancy or the labor and delivery stages of childbirth. Medical professionals—including midwives, nurses, physicians, and others—who take part in the care of a woman during her pregnancy owe a duty to exercise reasonable care for the safety and health of both the woman and her developing fetus. This duty exists at all times during the woman’s pregnancy and continues to exist for some time after her child is born. Hospitals and clinics that employ such professionals and that offer pregnancy care or childbirth services owe the same duty of care to mother and child. When a fetus or newborn is injured or dies as a result of negligent medical care, the negligent professionals and/or healthcare entities may be required to pay damages to the child or the child’s family in a personal-injury or wrongful-death medical-malpractice action.
If your child sustained a birth injury of any kind and you suspect that the injury may have been caused by medical negligence during your pregnancy, labor, or delivery, you may be entitled to financial compensation through legal action. The Killino Firm’s Pennsylvania birth-injury/birth-trauma attorneys have extensive experience with birth-injury cases and can help you obtain justice from the individuals and/or entities responsible for your child’s suffering. Contact The Killino Firm at 877-875-2927 for a cost-free evaluation of your case and more information about your legal rights and options.
Legal Liability for Birth Injuries Caused by Negligent Medical Care during Pregnancy
Negligent medical care, or medical malpractice, may cause the loss of a pregnancy before term or injury to a fetus that becomes apparent at birth. The health and safety of both patients—mother and developing fetus—must be adequately monitored and managed to avoid certain preventable complications or conditions that may cause fetal injury.
The negligent prescription of medications that a physician knows or reasonably should know to be teratogenic (causal of birth defects), for example, may lead to the physician’s liability in a medical malpractice action for damages suffered by a child as a result of the mother’s use of the prescribed medication during pregnancy. A doctor’s negligent failure to diagnose and/or manage placental abruption, a condition that is most likely to occur in the third trimester of pregnancy and that involves the separation of the placenta from the uterine wall, can also cause serious birth injuries due to hypoxia (oxygen deprivation). Additional injuries due to hypoxia or anoxia (no oxygen) brought on by negligent medical care during a woman’s pregnancy may include premature birth, stillbirth, hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), cerebral palsy (CP), paralysis, or damage to heart, lungs, kidneys, and other vital organs.
When such negligent medical care is found to have been a cause of a child’s preventable birth injury or death, the negligent medical professionals as well as the clinics or hospitals that employ them may be held legally responsible for the damages suffered by the child or the child’s surviving family. Hospitals, clinics, and other healthcare entities that employ physicians and other medical personnel may be held directly liable for the negligent screening, hiring, training, and retaining of medical professionals whose negligent care is found to have been causal of a child’s birth injury or death. Even when an employer has not contributed to a child’s birth injury through its own negligence, the employer may still be held vicariously (indirectly) liable for the injuries caused by the negligence of its employees.
Legal Liability for Birth Injuries Caused by Negligent Medical Care during Labor and Delivery
Children may also sustain birth injuries as a result of negligent medical care during the labor and delivery stages of childbirth. This negligence may constitute a lack of due care on the part of medical personnel assisting in a child’s birth, negligence on the part of hospitals or birthing facilities in hiring medical personnel, or negligence in the implementation or enforcement of protocols for safe labor and delivery care.
In some cases, medical negligence during labor and delivery can create complications that could have been avoided with proper care. The negligent failure to order an indicated Caesarian section (C-section) when a fetus is known to be macrosomic (over the average weight for its gestational age), for example, may cause shoulder dystocia (the catching of the baby’s shoulder on the mother’s pelvis) that may, in turn, lead to Erb’s palsy or other brachial plexus palsy birth injuries.
In other cases, birth injuries may be caused by the negligent management of complications or conditions that have not been caused, in the first instance, by medical negligence. The negligent twisting or pulling of a baby’s neck or head during a difficult delivery, for example, may lead to brachial plexus palsy injuries even in non-macrosomic fetuses. The negligent performance of a C-section that was properly and timely ordered may result in a childbirth injury that could have been avoided. Improper use of forceps or vacuum devices to assist a difficult delivery or the negligent management of a breech-presentation birth may also cause preventable birth injuries to a child.
Hospitals and other facilities that offer childbirth services may also cause birth injuries by their own direct negligence. In addition to the negligent hiring and retention of negligent medical personnel, such facilities have been found to have negligently caused preventable birth injuries through, among other things, the inadequate institution or enforcement of labor and delivery protocols or the improper cleaning and maintenance of equipment and facilities.
If your child has sustained a birth injury that may have been caused by medical negligence during your pregnancy, labor, or delivery, The Killino Firm’s Pennsylvania birth-injury/birth-trauma attorneys can help you obtain the compensation to which you and your family are entitled. Contact us at 877-875-2927 for expert and experienced assistance with your child’s birth-injury case.