OBGYN Malpractice – Remembering the Risks

Across the United States on May 10th children young and old celebrate the women who gave them life on Mother’s Day. This tradition sometimes consists of a heart-warming greeting card, a brunch served in bed, or a bouquet of flowers to show mom a small token of appreciation for her years of dedication. But it is important to keep this spirit alive throughout the year. It is worth remembering that their trials as parents began long before your memory.

Even in this day and age in the U.S. not all childbirths are perfectly safe. The risk of medical error even in our country occurs at a higher rate than should be acceptable. In fact, obstetrician gynecologists are commonly sued for their failure to safely deliver newborns. The challenge presented to an OBGYN is to care for the well being of two human beings at once; this can certainly be a daunting task. Recently, one of the nation’s largest insurance companies set out to discover where the errors in obstetrics were commonly occurring.

The Study

Recently, a medical malpractice insurance agency called The Doctors Company issued a study addressing the issue of malpractice suits against OBGYNS. The study focused on 882 claims against obstetricians from for a seven-year period ranging from 2007-2014. Each of the cases used in the study were finalized prior to the beginning of the research. The purpose of the study was specifically to determine why and when obstetricians are hit with medical malpractice lawsuits from their patients. Here is what the researchers concluded were the most likely reasons an OBGYN would find themselves defending their professional course of action:

1. Time. When it comes to pregnancy, timing is everything. When a doctor notices that a fetal heartbeat is not operating at the proper rate they categorize is based on the severity of the missed beats. When a doctor is presented with a more severe case of a fetal heart rate problem, Category II or III, this is an indication that something even more serious may be happening. A possible result is an immediate need to deliver the baby by cesarean section. A delay in ordering such a procedure could traumatically injure both mother and child. In 22% of the malpractice claims studied the delay in treatment in these scenarios created the cause of action.

2. Method. When a natural birth is carried out certain maneuvers must be done with care to ensure that both the newborn and the mother do not sustain bodily injury. In 20% of the cases studied the cause of action was the result of improper movement resulting in injury to the mother or child. Mothers suffered vaginal and pelvic injuries while infants suffered anything from skull fractures to brachial plexus (a nerve network that controls signals through a large part of your body) injuries.

3. Management. During pregnancy any number of abnormalities could occur, be detected, and often corrected prior to the birth of a child. Where doctors are unable to correct the irregularity, they are able to advise and plan accordingly. In 17% of cases physicians were sued based on their failure to test for, recognize, or plan for an abnormality during pregnancy. The result of this failure ranged from preeclampsia to intrauterine death.

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