Medical malpractice occurs when a doctor, obstetrician, gynecologist, surgeon or another licensed health care provider falls short of the accepted standards of patient care. During the delicate birthing process, any type of medical malpractice could put both the infant and mother at risk of serious injury. If you believe you are a victim of medical malpractice resulting in a birth injury in Pennsylvania, contact a Pittsburgh medical malpractice lawyer at Dallas W. Hartman, P.C., for a free case evaluation.
OBGYNs are doctors of obstetrics and gynecology: specialists in pregnancy, childbirth and female reproductive conditions. If an OBGYN makes a mistake during childbirth, the results can be disastrous. The duties and responsibilities of an OBGYN during pregnancy, labor and delivery include:
- Correctly reading sonograms to notice birth defects or conditions that require treatment
- Diagnosing maternal infections, cancers and conditions during pregnancy
- Monitoring mother and baby for signs of distress, such as fetal hypertension
- Detecting the signs of a prolapsed or compressed umbilical cord
- Noticing emergency situations, such as placental abruption
Medical malpractice by an OBGYN can significantly increase the risk of a birth injury to the mother or child. For example, OBGYN errors could lead to fetal brain hypoxia (a loss of oxygen), complications from an undiagnosed infection, uncontrollable postoperative bleeding, and even infant wrongful death.
Improper Use of Birth-Assistive Tools
Assisted vaginal deliveries may be necessary when the infant needs help getting through the birth canal or past the mother’s pelvis (e.g., in the case of shoulder dystocia). Assisted deliveries are more likely with complications such as fetal distress, a “breach” infant position, a larger baby or issues that interfere with the mother’s ability to push during labor.
In these cases, a doctor may use birth-assistive tools, such as forceps or a vacuum, to extract the baby. Unfortunately, the misuse of these tools can increase the risk of related birth injuries. Examples include nerve damage, facial paralysis, cuts or lacerations, bone fractures, traumatic brain injuries, and brain damage.
Failure to React Appropriately to an Emergency
Even the best doctor or OBGYN cannot always prevent or foresee emergencies. However, Pittsburgh personal injury attorneys explain that doctors are expected to react promptly, correctly and appropriately to health emergencies that do arise during labor or delivery. If a vaginal delivery is no longer safe for the mother or baby, for example, the doctor should promptly order an emergency Cesarean section (C-section).
Negligently failing to notice a medical emergency or react appropriately can lead to devastating birth injuries, including brain damage and cerebral palsy. This is a permanent motor function disability that can be caused by a prolonged loss of oxygen to the brain, such as if the infant is stuck in the birth canal for an extended period of time.
An inappropriate reaction to a complication could also cause a birth injury. Negligently tugging or yanking on an infant’s arm in a case of shoulder dystocia, for example, could injure the nerves in the brachial plexus located in the shoulder – resulting in Erb’s palsy or Klumpke’s palsy. Physicians should react to any complications that arise in an appropriate manner.
Lawsuits for Medical Malpractice Resulting in Birth Injuries
Families affected by medical malpractice during labor or delivery may be entitled to financial compensation through a birth injury lawsuit in Pennsylvania. Bringing a lawsuit with assistance from an experienced Pittsburgh birth injury attorney can result in payment for the family’s related hospital bills, ongoing medical expenses, pain and suffering, permanent disability, and more. Discuss a potential birth injury claim with one of our attorneys for more information.