New Study Determines Top Three Reasons for Ob/Gyn Liability Cases

nurses in hospitalMedical negligence is now a leading cause of accidental death in the United States. A new study published on medical liability cases in the obstetric field indicates there are three main causes of Ob/Gyn liability cases: errors in medical judgment, miscommunication between medical providers, and technical errors. When these issues cause harm to pregnant mothers and their babies, the victims need to know their rights and legal options for recovery.

Poor Judgment to Blame for Medical Negligence

CRICO Strategies conducted a study of more than 800 medical negligence and birth injury cases between 2005 and 2009. The study concluded that 77% of cases resulted from a clinical judgment error on part of the attending obstetrician. Thirty-six percent of the cases studied showed birth injuries due to miscommunication, and another 26% of cases resulted from technical errors. Less common causes of medical liability cases examined in the study included poor documentation practices, ineffective supervision, and administrative errors.

Medical professionals like obstetricians must use good judgment when treating patients. In some cases, this involves using a careful differential diagnostic process that accurately determines a patient’s condition using a process of elimination based on the patient’s symptoms. Judgment errors can also result from an obstetrician mismanaging prenatal care or failing to recognize signs of fetal distress.

Medicine is in a much better place than it was 50 years ago, and birth injury cases typically only represent about one of every 1,000 births in the U.S. However, attending physicians treating pregnant women must not only track the baby’s progress and account for signs of distress, but also pay close attention to changes in the mother’s health and address any warning signs of pregnancy complications quickly and effectively.

Miscommunication and Medical Negligence

Some patients may require treatment from multiple doctors and/or specialists. Professionals must coordinate treatment and communicate effectively so no details of the patient’s condition become lost in translation. For example, if a pregnant mother is allergic to a type of anesthesia and the attending obstetrician fails to convey this crucial information to other care providers, the patient may suffer serious medical complications and the mistake may even endanger her pregnancy.

Miscommunication can also impede proper treatment among medical teams. For example, an attending obstetrician performing a caesarean section procedure will have assistance from nurses and possibly other doctors. Communication in these situations is crucial; any missteps or miscommunications can impact patient care and have serious repercussions for both the patient and the presiding medical team.

Technical Errors

Obstetricians must conduct medical procedures competently and only use approved techniques for a patient’s condition. Failure to adhere to standards established by the medical community or simply performing a procedure incompetently can have catastrophic results. Some of the most common technical errors that lead to medical negligence and birth injury claims include improper technique during labor and delivery, improper application of surgical instruments like forceps and vacuum extraction tubes, or excessive force during delivery.

Technical errors may also result from other parties’ influences. For example, broken or poorly calibrated lab testing equipment could interfere with a pregnant mother’s bloodwork and lead to erroneous lab results. This can have a dramatic impact on patient care and may even endanger the lives of a pregnant mother and her child. Poor hospital sanitation practices could lead to infection or the spread of disease, and liability for these issues would likely fall to the hospital.

Standard of Care in Medical Liability Cases

Every medical malpractice claim or birth injury claim will revolve around the concept of the standard of care for the patient’s situation. The “standard of care” refers to the acceptable level of care a patient should receive for a given medical condition. When a medical professional violates the standard of care or fails to offer treatment that meets the standard of care for a patient’s condition, that professional commits medical malpractice and faces liability for the resulting damages.

Medicine is an inherently uncertain field and honest mistakes are very possible, but many mistakes are preventable with careful attention to detail and adherence to the standard of care. Most medical malpractice claims must pass through a review process before plaintiffs can proceed with filing lawsuits. If a patient alleges malpractice, the medical board with jurisdiction over the defendant will review the claim and approve it for a lawsuit if the claim holds merit. This review process generally includes a determination as to whether the defendant’s conduct was acceptable for the given circumstances and met the applicable standard of care.

Damages From Medical Negligence

When an obstetrician or other medical professional harms a pregnant mother or her child, that medical professional will face liability for the resulting medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages resulting from the incident. State laws vary in terms of statutes of limitations for filing malpractice claims, damage caps, and the damages available in certain claims. Anyone who has suffered any damages from an obstetrician’s medical negligence should consult with a medical malpractice attorney as soon as possible to discuss the available options for legal recourse.