MEDICO-LEGAL ASPECTS PERTAINING TO BIRTH INJURY

MEDICO-LEGAL ASPECTS PERTAINING TO BIRTH INJURY

“The most important and emotional event in the life of a couple is the birth of a child and it’s always joyous occasion in the family when a newborn arrives. Most parents have a niggling fear that the nine months of pregnancy is comparable to walking through a minefield. They only breathe a sigh of relief when they’ve counted all ten toes and fingers of their newborn. It’s no wonder they feel that way because it can be the most devastating thing if the baby is born with a birth defect.”

INTRODUCTION

Negligence during delivery is one of the leading drivers of medical negligence lawsuits. As parents prepare for a new baby, they hope for the best, and hope that the healthcare providers responsible for their infant’s health do the best that they can. Part of the medical care provided by physicians include recommending the best prenatal vitamins, performing routine check-ups, and, at the end of the pregnancy, delivering the baby safely.

But at times, babies are born with problems that don’t match their parents’ expectations. When an injury occurs to an unborn baby and/or to the mother during labor or the delivery process, in many cases the harm may have been unavoidable under the circumstances. In other situations, the course of treatment chosen by the doctor may have been medically inappropriate, or the physician may have failed to use proper skill and care before or during childbirth. When a medical professional fails to act with a reasonable standard of care, skill, or judgment, they may be considered negligent and can be held responsible for injury to the child.

WHAT IS A BIRTH INJURY?

A birth injury is a health problem that an infant is born with that is, in most cases, completely preventable. The most common types of preventable birth injuries are caused by:

  • Pulling and/or twisting the infant improperly during the delivery period
  • Improper handling and use of birth-assisting tools, such as forceps or a vacuum extraction tool
  • Administering the wrong amount or the wrong type of medication to the mother during pregnancy and during labor
  • Failure to monitor the infant properly for distress, including failure to regularly monitor fetal heartbeat
  • Failure to schedule and perform an emergency caesarean surgery (C-section).

Birth Injuries Caused to the Child

Birth injuries can happen when the doctor or a medical staff fails to adhere to the proper standard of treatment procedures or fails to provide adequate medical support during childbirth. The most common reasons for such failures include:

  • inadequate monitoring of the patient
  • incorrect diagnosis
  • lack of medical experience
  • lack of experience in handling specialized equipment like forceps
  • failing to take adequate remedial action if necessary

Birth Injuries Caused to the Mother

The birth injuries more commonly associated with the mother can include:

  • fissures, vaginal tears, poor stitching after a C-section
  • secondary infections caused by mismanaged post-delivery complications.

WHEN DO BIRTH INJURIES LEAD TO LEGAL ACTION?

A difficult delivery is something that an experienced doctor should be able to avoid. Another way that a birth injury happens is from medical negligence and sometimes medical negligence could be something as simple as a doctor not viewing the imaging materials or reports properly. Other examples of Medical negligence could be the doctor’s failure to perform the necessary tests.

If the baby’s birth injury is related to the doctor not performing the right tests, this is an example of medical negligence. Sometimes the parents are not financially prepared to take care of a child that requires a lot of medical care as a child with a birth defect would, and if the doctor did not give them the proper know ledge beforehand, this is considered medical negligence. 

In every medical malpractice case, it’s first necessary to establish the appropriate level of care under the circumstances – the degree of care and skill of the average health care provider who practices the same specialty, taking into account the medical knowledge that is available to the physician in that particular situation. This is a legal concept known as the Medical Standard of Care. Standard of care is defined as what a reasonably competent healthcare professional or organization would do under similar circumstances. If a doctor, nurse, or medical organization deviates from standard of care, and this results in harm to a patient, it is considered medical malpractice.

In some traumatic childbirth scenarios, fast action is required on the part of the doctor and especially in cases where the health of the newborn or the mother is in danger. But in cases where no complications exist and labor is proceeding normally, a doctor may well be deemed negligent if the baby ends up with a serious physical injury.

Alternatively, if a quick response to a dangerous situation is necessary, and the doctor fails to act that may also be considered medical negligence, and the medical professional would be on the legal hook for any resulting injuries.

Negligent prenatal care

If negligent medical treatment is provided during the pregnancy, it could harm the fetus or the mother (or both). Some examples of negligent prenatal care include the physician or obstetrician’s:

  • failure to diagnose a medical condition of the mother, such as preeclampsia, Rh incompatibility, hypoglycaemia, anemia, or gestational diabetes
  • failure to identify birth defects
  • failure to identify ectopic pregnancies
  • failure to diagnose a disease that could be contagious to the mother’s fetus (such as genital herpes or neonatal lupus)

Negligence during childbirth

A doctor’s negligence during childbirth could cause injury to the baby and harm to the mother. Common medical errors during childbirth include the physician or obstetricians:

  • failure to anticipate birth complications due to the baby’s large size or because the umbilical cord got tangled
  • failure to respond to signs of fetal distress
  • failure to order a caesarean section when one was appropriate, or
  • Incompetent use of forceps or a vacuum extractor.

Birth Injuries Resulting in Fetal Death

This issue typically arises in one of two ways:

  • the fetus dies before or during childbirth because the mother also lost her life, or
  • the mother survives but the fetus sustains injuries which lead to its death either in utero or at the time of delivery. 

Misdiagnosis or Delayed Diagnosis

When a doctor misdiagnoses a condition (or fails to diagnose a serious disease for some time), the patient might miss treatment opportunities that could have prevented serious harm or even death.

The key in proving a medical malpractice claim based on misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis is to compare what the treating doctor did or didn’t do, to how other competent doctors within the same speciality would have handled the case. If a reasonably skillful and competent doctor under the same circumstances would not have made the diagnostic error, then the treating doctor may be liable for malpractice.

Medication Errors

Medication errors can occur many ways – from the initial prescription to the administration of the drug. However, by far the most common medication errors involve dosage – the patient gets too much or too little of a drug. This can happen several ways:

  • The doctor writes an incorrect dosage on the prescription.
  • The prescription is correct, but the nurse administers the incorrect amount.
  • Equipment that administers the drug malfunctions, causing a large dose of medication to be administered over a short period of time.

Anesthesia Errors

Anesthesia mistakes are usually more dangerous than surgery mistakes. Even a small error by the anesthesiologist can result in permanent injury, brain damage, or even death. An anesthesiologist can commit medical malpractice even before anesthesia is administered by:

  • failing to investigate the patient’s medical history for possible complications, or
  • failing to inform the patient of the risks involved if preoperative instructions aren’t followed.

Anesthesia errors that can occur during surgery include:

  • giving too much anesthesia to the patient
  • failing to monitor the patient’s vital signs
  • improperly intubating patients
  • using defective equipment

Surgery Errors

Some medical malpractice claims arise from mistakes made in the operating room. A surgeon might be negligent during the operation itself (puncturing internal organs, operating on the wrong body part, or leaving surgical instruments in the body) or the nursing staff might be negligent in administering post-op care (which could result in complications like serious infection).

Few Cases

During delivery Child cried 3 to 5 minute late in corporate hospital, Paediatrician, Gynac other team of Doctors resituated child , Child later diagnosed with partial cerebral damage, relatives filed 3.5 Cr case against Hospital and treating Doctors.

  • Multiple cases filed in Still Birth cases
  • Cases of Injury during Child Delivery
  • Multiple Cases of Delivery Death

Get In Touch with Our Legal Team

For more info or to discuss any medico-legal queries, please email us at legal@legalmd.in
For any other queries, please email us at member@legalmd.in

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