Birthing Injury Caused to Mother Ruins Career

Amy Herbst filed a lawsuit in federal court against the federal government Monday for negligence. The new mother is alleging that her digestive and reproductive systems are permanently damaged by a faulty operation performed during childbirth.

Herbst was a popular mezzo-soprano opera singer in Nashville who worked for Nashville Opera Company. She is also an Army wife who was living at Fort Campbell with her husband at the time of the incident.

Herbst checked into the Blanchfield Army Community Hospital at Fort Campbell, Kentucky in February of 2012. During the second stage of labor, the baby’s shoulder became stuck, obstructing delivery. To avoid an instance of Erb’s Palsy, a nurse-midwife performed an episiotomy to aid in delivery.

An episiotomy is a cut a doctor or nurse makes to the perineum, the space of skin between the vagina and anus. An episiotomy was done to help to widen the delivery area and prevent muscles and skin was later tearing. Doctors once believed that episiotomies were beneficial during child labor because straight cuts are easier to stitch than jagged tears and because they believed women would experience less pain and fewer pelvic-floor complications. However, recent students have shown that these doctors were incorrect in their assumptions and that episiotomies are in fact associated with more pain, greater tears, and incontinence.

Without telling Herbst about the complication or procedure and without obtaining consent, the nurse performed the episiotomy. Following childbirth, the nurse then repaired the cut with sutures. While episiotomies are common, there are other safer alternatives.

Not aware of the emergency procedure that had been performed on her, Herbst later was released from the hospital. However, she began to experience incontinence and excessive flatulence. Confused and alarmed, she returned to Blanchfield Army Community Hospital for a follow-up. Another nurse told Herbst about the episiotomy and informed Herbst that the original nurse-midwife was unable to successfully repair the incision.

Herbst sought a second opinion from a colorectal surgeon at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. This surgeon told Herbst that she would need additional surgery to repair the damage. Due to the nature of the injury, Herbst may also need to have reconstructive surgery redone multiple times. There is no guarantee that surgery will reverse the side effects of the injury. In addition, all future pregnancies will have to be delivered using a Cesarean section. Due to the complications and embarrassment of her injuries, Herbst has been unable to continue to work with the Nashville Opera Company.

Herbst is suing the Army hospital for $2.5 million in negligence, pain and suffering, embarrassment, and loss of income. Herbst is able to sue the federal government through the Federal Tort Claims Act because an alleged tortious act that caused damage was performed by a federal employee.

According to Herbst’s attorney, “At no time was she asked to consent, nor did she consent, to the performance of an episiotomy.” He continued, “There seemed to be an assumption they didn’t need to involve the patient in the decision making and they were completely wrong, as a matter of law and social responsibility.”

If a doctor or nurse performed a procedure during labor without informing you or getting your consent, please contact Levin & Perconti today.

See Our Other Blog Posts:

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Profile of Determination with Erb’s Palsy

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