Medical errors in labor and delivery

Studies over the last few years have been highlighting the glaring problem of hospital mistakes and medical malpractice that cause permanent injury and death in patients. A study on long-term care further shows that these tragic and preventable errors are happening at an alarming rate to one of our most vulnerable patient populations: nursing home residents. The Medicare study found that 33% of patients in skilled nursing facilities (nursing homes) suffered adverse events (were harmed / injured) during their stay, and 54% of these adverse events were preventable (1). 

Problems with care across the health care industry

Research has gone beyond studying preventable hospital errors in Medicare patients. In 2013, the Journal of Patient Safety found that preventable hospital mistakes are responsible for a projected 440,000 deaths per year, which is 1/6 of all deaths nationally, making preventable medical mistakes the 3rd leading cause of death in the U.S. (2). Ten to twenty times that many patients won’t die from preventable hospital errors, but will have severe injuries.

Medical errors that can occur during labor and delivery

There are many conditions that can occur during labor and delivery that can cause a baby to be oxygen deprived and in distress. Thus, it also is crucial that medical staff are trained in fetal heart rate monitoring. In addition to proper fetal monitoring, the mother must also be properly monitored. A mother’s blood pressure, heart rate, and physical signs (such as abdominal and back pain and lack of fetal movement) can give important information regarding impending fetal distress.

It is also imperative that medical staff  have the capacity to perform an emergency C-section if necessary. Of course, it is the duty of the physician to obtain informed consent from the mother for any procedure performed. This means that the physician must explain the risks, benefits and alternatives of all procedures and potential delivery methods. But when a baby is in distress, a C-section is often the best (and sometimes only) way to quickly deliver a baby to prevent brain damage when she is being deprived of oxygen in the womb. Certain conditions, such as cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD) and total placenta previa, require a C-section delivery.

Help for children who were injured during or near the time of delivery

When labor and delivery are not properly managed, a baby may develop brain bleeds or become severely oxygen deprived for other reasons. When a baby goes without sufficient oxygen for too long, permanent brain injury can occur.  Babies can end up with cerebral palsy, hypoxic ischemic enecephalopathy (HIE), periventricular leukomalacia (PVL), intellectual and developmental disabilities, seizure disorders, and hydrocephalus. Babies can also become brain damaged if an infection in the mother is not properly managed and it travels to the baby’s brain at birth. Permanent brain damage in a baby can also occur if a baby’s blood sugar or bilirubin levels are not properly monitored and treated if abnormal after birth.

For over 25 years, the award winning attorneys at ABC Law Centers (Reiter & Walsh, P.C.) have been helping families nationwide affected by cerebral palsy and other birth injuries. Our nationally-recognized attorneys have a track record of multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements that attest to their success. If medical malpractice occurred, we will fight to obtain the compensation your child needs for lifelong therapy and treatment and a secure future. Contact us today for a free consultation:  Our firm doesn’t receive any fees unless we win your case.
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  1. Levinson, D. R. (n.d.). Adverse Events in Long-Term-Care Hospitals: National Incidence Among Medicare Beneficiaries [Pamphlet]. Https://
  2. James, John T. PhD A New, Evidence-based Estimate of Patient Harms Associated with Hospital Care, Journal of Patient Safety: September 2013 – Volume 9 – Issue 3 – p 122-128 doi: 10.1097/PTS.0b013e3182948a69

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