Medical Malpractice: Prenatal Error

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Can a Woman Sue Her Doctor If There Is a Prenatal Error?

There are a number of things that can go wrong with a baby before it is even born.  These injures can result from medical malpractice.  Medical malpractice happens when a doctor, in this case a gynecologist or obstetrician, makes a mistake.  The mistake is “gross” enough so that it deviates from what an average, careful physician would have done if faced with similar circumstances.  In some states, a mother may recover for emotional distress for a miscarriage or stillbirth.

What Should a Mother Expect From Her Doctor During Pregnancy?

1st Trimester

During the first trimester, a doctor needs to check the mother’s medical history.  The doctor should identify at-risk factors, such as sexually transmitted diseases, diabetes, previous abortions or miscarriages, drug and alcohol use, the mothers’ diet, genetic diseases, etc.  These factors can have a serious affect on the unborn baby.

Part of the doctor’s job is assessing the risk, and taking the appropriate precautions.  For example, a doctor must advise the woman to start taking prenatal vitamins with folic acid.  Folic acid is especially important in the early stages of brain and spinal cord development.  If the embryo develops spina bifida through a doctor’s failure to advise, the doctor may be liable for malpractice.

2nd Trimester

Early in the second trimester, the doctor is responsible for administering ultrasound tests, determining the growth rate of the baby, and checking the fetus’s heart, organs, and extremities.  If the fetus reaches delivery age while missing an arm, the parents might have chosen to abort had they known about it sooner.

3rd Trimester

During the third trimester, a doctor must assign the mother to a comprehensive prenatal course, in order to prepare for delivery.  The doctor must assess the size of the fetus to determine whether a vaginal birth is safe.  The doctor must continue to monitor the fetus’s heart and other vital organs for signs of fetal distress, which can be caused by a high acidity in the blood, a lack of oxygen, and the presence of fetal feces in the amniotic fluid.  In that case, the baby may have to be delivered by c-section. 

Birth

Although many birth injuries occur because of medical malpractice during one of the trimesters, decisions made at the time of birth can endanger the life of the infant. If the child is positioned in an abnormal manner, the child comes out of the womb other than head first, the doctor’s decision to perform a c-section may be crucial. Likewise, giving too much pain medication may inhibit the mother’s body from releasing the correct amount or kind of hormones to prevent birth injury.

Can the Mother Sue Her Doctor For Injuries To Herself?

Yes, if the injuries the mother suffered were injuries that other women would not normally suffer as a result of birth. Scars are not usual after a c-section. Tears in the vagina after birth are not as common if the doctor takes necessary precautions, although injury to the vagina may depend on the exact situation and the doctor’s level of experience.

How Can a Lawyer Help?

A personal injury attorney can help you recover your medical expenses and your physical pain and suffering.  If you or your child has suffered a birth injury, contact a personal injury attorney to learn about your rights. Remember that there are deadlines for bringing personal injury claims, so do not delay.

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Last Modified: 03-19-2014 12:14 PM PDT

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