As unique as each person is, so was their birth. Welcoming a newborn into the world can look drastically different depending on the circumstances of the birth and the health of both parent and child. For a variety of reasons, a vaginal delivery is not always a possibility. In this event, babies are delivered via a procedure referred to as a C-Section. Delaying the decision on whether to perform a C-section can cause significant injury to both the child and the parent. If you or someone you love were injured because of a healthcare provider’s choice to wait too long before performing this procedure, you need legal guidance from an experienced medical malpractice lawyer. Lopez McHugh offers a free consultation to all injury victims including the families of those harmed by medical malpractice C-section delays.
What is C-Section Delay?
A Cesarean section, also called Caesarean section, Cesarean delivery, or C-section, is a surgical procedure used to deliver a baby through an incision in the parent’s abdomen and uterus. These cuts allow doctors to deliver a baby non-vaginally, which in some cases could cause significant harm or injury to a parent, a newborn, or both.
A Cesarean section may be planned ahead should the parent develop complications or if they have had a previous C-section. Many times, though, the need for a first-time C-section does not become obvious until labor has already begun, making the procedure both urgent and highly sensitive.
When a vaginal birth is deemed dangerous, doctors can order a C-section. Once a vaginal birth is no longer a safe delivery option, time is of crucial importance for the health of both parent and child. Any delay in ordering and/or performing a C-section can have severe consequences, including permanent injury and even wrongful death.
Some of the reasons a doctor may order a C-section can include:
- Abnormal position of the baby
- Multiple births, including twins, triplets, or more
- Prolonged labor that does not progress after several hours
- Problems with the placenta
- Umbilical cord wrapped around the baby’s neck
- Existing medical conditions, including heart issues or spine problems
- Infections the parent may pass to the baby during a vaginal birth
- The baby suffers from an anomaly or disorder
- Not enough oxygen is getting to the baby
When any of these cases arise, a C-section may be the only chance for a healthy birth. However, when healthcare workers delay ordering or carrying out a Caesarean, the parent and child can suffer irreversible injuries.
C-Section Delay Complications
Cesarean delays have the potential to end catastrophically. As a consequence of failing to order and perform a critical C-section, a baby could suffer birth injuries that require lifelong medical treatment. Obstetricians and delivery staff are specially trained to detect urgent medical issues before they reach critical levels.
Parents and their loved ones trust the physician and delivery staff will exercise proper judgment and undertake the appropriate treatments to ensure the health and safety of both parent and child before, during, and after delivery. When physicians fail to perform necessary testing, checkups, or act in a manner that causes the delay of a needed C-section, newborns and parents suffer.
These negligent actions can lead to the following birth injuries:
- Cerebral palsy: A debilitating injury that is marked by limited movement and speech, affecting a child for the rest of their life. Children who develop this condition often require intense medical treatment and on-site caretakers.
- Brain damage: This injury can be caused by a lack of oxygen to the head, which can lead to both physical and mental deficits.
- Shoulder dystocia: This condition impairs a baby’s movement of the arm and shoulder, and could be permanent, depending on the severity of the damage.
- Brachial plexus injury: A serious condition that affects a baby’s spine and brachial plexus nerve group by compressing, separating, stretching, or tearing nerves. Nerve damage can leave a baby’s arm paralyzed temporarily or permanently and may require additional surgery.
- Erb’s Palsy: This is a permanent movement disorder that can result from a brachial plexus injury or shoulder dystocia, affecting the fifth and sixth vertebrae of the spine. This condition can also be caused by a baby’s neck injury during childbirth.
- Death: Loss of life is a devastating result that can occur when a physician fails to order a C-section in time. The lives of both parent and child depend on the actions taken by their physician as soon as complications are detected.
Birth injuries like these often come with large medical bills in addition to the cost of the lifelong care the child will need. This places an unimaginable burden and stress on parents who trusted medical professionals to safely deliver their baby and provide a healthy recovery for parent and child.
Why C-Sections Get Unnecessarily Delayed
You trust that your doctor and other healthcare providers will be closely monitoring your delivery status so they can make the right decisions as soon as possible. However, many factors may contribute to the reality parents face once they are in labor and in a hospital ready to give birth. Hospitals are often busy, and decisions are sometimes made using insufficient or incorrect information.
Having to quickly prepare a patient for surgery can throw a delivery team into chaos, even if they face this situation regularly. Every unplanned C-section is a race against the clock to prevent injury to the parent and child. Calling in surgical specialists and their support teams may take time that the baby does not have to spare.
Ideally, the decision to perform a C-section will be made as soon as the medical team detects the first sign of fetal distress. Certain unnecessary and harmful delays in treatment, however, can result from any of the following problems:
If a hospital is beyond its patient capacity and understaffed, physicians and nurses may have limited time to devote to your birth. Because your situation can change quickly, a delay in examination or assembling a surgical team could result in significant harm for you and your child. In addition, exhausted and overworked healthcare providers may make unintended medical errors that worsen the problem.
If there is not enough medical information available or the information provided is incorrect, your obstetrician may misdiagnose your circumstances. This can happen if your regular doctor is not on call when you deliver. Even with access to your medical records and monitoring you during your delivery, the attending obstetrician can miss warning signs and/or make a medical error or commit negligence in a variety of other ways which can harm you and your baby.
Most parents who enter the hospital to give birth are immediately connected to monitoring equipment. The baby is also monitored closely, but if staff or machines are in short supply, inadequate monitoring can mean healthcare providers miss important signs of distress. Untrained staff may also be unfamiliar with correctly reading information on the monitors.
Insufficient Health Insurance Coverage
If your health insurance is not comprehensive enough to cover the costs of a C-section, this may factor into the facility or provider decision concerning whether and when to perform a Caesarean delivery. Unfortunately, many hospital administrators will become involved in this life-or-death decision and base it solely on your ability to pay, further delaying your necessary treatment.
Monetary Damages Available in a Birth Injury Case
When you or your baby have been seriously injured during the birth process, each of you can suffer astronomical medical bills not to mention other damages and losses. Either or both of you may need to spend time in intensive care wards, or may require emergency surgery or lengthy medical attention. Even an average labor and delivery carries a high risk of medical mistakes that can cause developmental delays such as cerebral palsy.
When you and your child suffer the effects C-Section delay, you could be eligible to recover damages such as:
- Pain and suffering: In addition to the initial pain, your child may have pain and suffering for the rest of their lives. The parents may also suffer mental anguish.
- Emotional distress: The extreme demands of caring for a child injured at birth can take a severe emotional and mental toll on both parents.
- Lifetime care: Many children who are injured at birth require specialized care for the rest of their lives. The costs can run into the millions of dollars.
- Lost income: Parents who are hurt or must care for their injured child full-time may lose substantial income and earning potential.
- Punitive damages: When a C-section delay is found to be especially negligent, the judge may award punitive damages against the physicians and hospital.
Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit for a Delayed C-Section in Pennsylvania
Filing a lawsuit against a doctor or hospital is not like filing a claim against an individual or other kind of company. Medical lobbyists have ensured that state legislatures are on the side of healthcare providers to prevent them from facing some of the consequences of their actions.
There is a specific statute of limitations in Pennsylvania for medical malpractice lawsuits. Injured patients must file a claim within two years after the date of the injury. The window begins when the patient knows (or should have known) that they were hurt. In the case of a child injured during birth, it may take some time for the symptoms to appear, so this delay can be beneficial for parents. This is known as the discovery rule. In addition, a birth injury happening to a minor child can extend the statute of limitations as well due to their young age, but you would need to speak with an experienced birth injury lawyer to find out more about the laws and rules applicable to your particular situation.
In addition, parents wishing to file a medical malpractice claim must adhere to 231 Pennsylvania Code Rule 1042.3, which requires that they obtain and file a certificate of merit. This document must be written and signed by an appropriately licensed medical professional, stating that they believe a reasonable probability exists that the provider did not follow the accepted professional standards. This document provides validity to a claim of medical malpractice during childbirth.
There Is No Cap on Medical Malpractice Damages in Pennsylvania
Many states have a limit, or cap, on the amount of damages a plaintiff can receive in a medical malpractice case. Pennsylvania neither limits economic nor non-economic awards, so parents and their injured child are eligible to receive the full compensation they are due. If a judge or jury decides to award punitive damages – or damages designed to punish the wrongdoer as opposed to compensate a loss – those are capped at two times the full amount of compensatory damages.
Philadelphia C-Section Delay Attorneys
Welcoming a child into the world should be a cherished memory. When physicians and delivery staff act negligently, a C-section procedure can be delayed or even botched, causing serious and even permanent injury. In addition to harming a fragile newborn, C-sections can also injure the parent.
If you or your child were hurt as the result of a delay in ordering a Cesarean section, contact the Philadelphia C-section malpractice attorneys at Lopez McHugh LLP today for a no-cost consultation. Physicians and medical professionals should be held responsible for their negligent actions, and no parent or baby should have to suffer.