Physicians and members of the delivery team can be held liable for birth injuries caused by their mismanagement of fetal distress. Because there are many dangers to a baby’s health during delivery, it is crucial for medical professionals to have the skills and expertise required to perform their jobs. When they do not, or when they act negligently, they can cause significant harm to patients under their care.
Causes of Fetal Distress
Placental abruption (separation of the placenta from the uterus), prolapse of the umbilical cord (constriction of umbilical cord within the birth canal), shoulder dystocia (when the baby’s head becomes lodged to the rear of the mother’s pelvic bone), and uterine rupture (tear in the wall of the uterus) can cause a loss of blood and oxygen to the brain and can lead to permanent brain damage or death. In many cases, children who suffer a loss of oxygen or blood to the brain during delivery can experience developmental delays and suffer significant learning disabilities. For this reason, these conditions must be diagnosed and treated immediately.
Treatment for Fetal Distress
Treatment for fetal distress depends on the cause and may include emergency cesarean delivery, resuscitation, or placement within a neonatal intensive recovery unit. Even with prompt treatment with the latest technology, there is a significant risk of permanent harm to the child. For instance, approximately 20% of babies who experience shoulder dystocia will have either temporary or permanent injury.
Liability for Fetal Distress
Last December, a Chicago family was awarded a $53 million settlement after physicians at the University of Chicago were found negligent for ignoring signs of fetal distress during a delivery in April 2004. The jury in the case determined that the hospital had negligently supervised the delivery and that the actions of the physicians and others responsible for delivering the child were responsible for causing the lifelong injuries the child suffered.
Obstetricians, nurses, and other members of the delivery team can be held liable for misdiagnosing fetal distress and failing to provide prompt treatment to both mother and child. Medical malpractice lawyers can pursue compensation to cover personal injuries, emotional distress, and the long-term care expenses associated with fetal birth injuries.