When Does a Birth Injury Constitute Malpractice?

IV drip in hospital room

With the advances we've made in the medical field, the standard of care that hospitals have to meet is high, as it should be. However, as reasonable as that standard of care is, not all medical providers live up to it, such as in the case of some birth injuries. When a birth injury is the result of malpractice, it may be possible to file a lawsuit against the medical professionals and facility on behalf of both the mother and child. Since not all birth injuries are due to negligence, however, how can you determine whether or not malpractice occurred?

Proving That a Birth Injury Is Malpractice in Pennsylvania

Even if you can prove that a mistake has occurred, that does not automatically mean you've proven malpractice, or even negligence. Some mistakes can be perceived as a given risk for certain medical procedures, or these errors may not be viewed as the cause of your birth injury.

In order to prove that a birth injury constitutes malpractice, you have to first prove that the hospital or medical professional responsible for the birth injury owed the patient in question a certain duty of care; if for instance a consulting physician was to blame, it may be hard to make a case for a clear doctor-patient relationship. You would next have to prove that they negligently failed to meet that duty. This duty of care is what any competent medical professional would have reasonably done in that circumstance. The testimony of medical experts is often necessary to determine whether or not an error was a breach of this standard of care. Next is proving that this negligence was the direct cause of the birth injury and not something else.

You will then have to build a claim that proves the damages of that childbirth injury, such as the costs of:

  • Medications
  • Surgery
  • Speech therapy
  • Limited mobility
  • Disability
  • And other calculable losses

These and other damages help to quantify the amount of compensation you are owed from the negligent parties that caused a preventable birth injury. It all depends on the specifics of each case.

Types of Birth Injury Medical Malpractice

It wouldn't be possible to list exhaustive examples of what types of birth injury constitute medical malpractice. However, to give you an idea of some of the instances where medical errors are severe enough to be considered malpractice, we'll look at some childbirth injuries due to failure to diagnose, negligence during delivery, and post-delivery errors.

Birth & Childbirth Injuries from a Failure to Diagnose

A failure to diagnose (and thus treat) certain conditions can put both the mom and baby at unnecessary risk. In many circumstances, the following examples of a failure to diagnose would constitute negligence that directly leads to a mother and/or child's injuries, because competent medical professionals doing their jobs would have caught the clear signs of these risk factors.

Some examples of malpractice during pregnancy and childbirth include:

  • Failure to diagnose preeclampsia - This is often a failure to monitor the mother's high blood pressure, which if left untreated could put both the mother and her infant's lives at risk.
  • Failure to diagnose diabetes - If a doctor failed to monitor the mother's blood-glucose levels throughout the pregnancy, then gestational diabetes that's left untreated could mean a difficult delivery, increasing the risk of injuries such as shoulder dystocia to the infant, as well as preeclampsia in the mother. A missed diagnosis of gestational diabetes also increases the risks of a miscarriage or stillbirth.
  • Failure to diagnose an infection in the mother - Depending on the type of maternal infection involved, if it's left untreated, this could put the infant at serious risk for brain damage, vision loss, or other permanent injuries or death.

These are all examples of highly treatable conditions, which are easily detectable if a physician is monitoring the mother and infant's health as they should be throughout the pregnancy and while at the hospital.

Birth Trauma & Injuries That Are Malpractice

In some cases, a medical provider may have acted negligently in how a procedure was carried out during labor and delivery, or by a failure to perform a procedure. The difficult thing is to prove that such costly errors weren't simply tragic complications, but that a physician, nurse, or other medical professional was acting negligently, such that a competent professional in their place wouldn't have committed the same error.

Some possible examples of medical malpractice during childbirth can include:

  • Failure to perform a medically necessary C-section (or not doing so promptly enough)
  • Not monitoring and responding to signs of fetal distress
  • Using forceps or a vacuum incorrectly (e.g. twisting the infant too hard out of the birth canal)
  • Improper administration of an epidural or anesthesia

Failure to Monitor During & After Childbirth

Malpractice can happen at any stage of pregnancy and childbirth; medical facilities and providers are responsible for their patients for as long as the mother and child are under their care.

Some examples of post-birth injuries that may amount to malpractice include:

  • Failure to diagnose infant with jaundice - While this is a highly treatable condition, if this diagnosis is missed, the excess of bilirubin in a newborn's blood can lead to kernicterus, which can be potentially fatal, or leave the infant with brain and spinal cord damage, such as loss of hearing or resulting in cerebral palsy
  • Failure to monitor and treat bleeding and tearing in the mother
  • Failure to monitor infant's vital signs - Serious conditions, such as neonatal hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) can be caused by the baby's brain being deprived of oxygen, sometimes caused by complications during labor and a failure to monitor the infant during delivery and thereafter. This can threaten the infant's life, or perhaps leave them with lifelong developmental issues.

Filing a Birth Injury Lawsuit in Pennsylvania

Whenever a mother and/or her newborn suffer serious injuries, the trauma can be very costly in personal and financial terms. If you think that a doctor, nurse, or medical facility's negligence was the cause of such losses for you or a loved one, then please don't hesitate to speak to one of our medical malpractice lawyers immediately. The success of a birth injury claim depends on the legal and medical details. At Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC, we offer free consultations, and we have helped people across Pennsylvania who have been harmed by negligence to get the answers and compensation that they deserve.

Call (888) 498-3023 to start talking to one of our Pennsylvania birth injury lawyers. We can discuss your case in a no-cost consultation, and if you hire us, you won't pay anything until we win your claim.

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