A story last month from the Oregonian discusses a high-profile birth injury case filed by a hospital following a traumatic birth that left a child severely injured. The issues present in this case are similar to those faced by families in our areas.
The story notes that the mother in the case knew early on that her son was in the “breech-birth” position. That is when the child is positioned in the womb to be delivered feet first, instead of head first. The feet first alignment is far more dangerous that the traditional head first delivery. As a result, mothers in that position most often deliver via Cesarean section. That is what was planned in this case as the mother already had a C-section scheduled.
However, upon researching online, the mother found a nearby hospital that claimed to have “expertise in delivering breech babies vaginally.” Spurred by the claims, the mother decided to use the facility. She canceled her C-section and went into labor at the institution with plans to deliver vaginally. Unfortunately, things did not go as intended.
The birth went awry early on. And, according to a recent lawsuit filed in the matter, the doctors at the hospital continued to pursue the vaginal birth even when they should have known that there were problems. In addition, the child allegedly had an abnormal heart rate for 20 minutes with staff members not acting quickly enough to resuscitate him. All of this led to a serious brain injury caused by lack of oxygen to the brain. As often happens in these cases, the child has since been diagnosed with cerebral palsy
Failure to Perform C-Section
The crux of the lawsuit is both the claims of inadequate care provided by the delivery team as well as questions about the hospital’s promotion of vaginal delivery of breech births which patients may rely on. The newspaper story on the case claims that at the time that this mother went in for the birth, the facility had performed a grand total of six successful deliveries of breech birth children. Was that track record enough to make claims that encouraged other mothers to cancel planned C-sections?
As we have discussed previously, there are some concerns on a system-wide level of an overuse of C-sections. Make no mistake, these surgical births are more invasive than traditional vaginal delivery and come with their own complications. However, general questions about not using C-sections when unnecessary is far from urging vaginal births in cases where the risk is far higher than acceptable.
In fact, the story points to a committee opinion from the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists which urged C-Section preferences for breech babies. The risk of harmful complications are simply too high otherwise, they noted. Few doctors have a requisite level of expertise handling vaginal delivery of breech babies. That is not to say that all vaginal deliveries of breech babies are inherently unreasonable, but very hard questions must be asked and careful analysis performed before counseling a patient to take that step.
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