Our team at Milestone works with families who are trying to move forward in the aftermath of a catastrophic, life-changing incident. While our clients’ injuries run the gamut, the most heartbreaking cases involve babies and children who have been harmed by someone else’s negligence. To the littlest ones, many of their injuries happened in the hospital during birth. Nothing can change the past, but if parents prevail in a lawsuit over these birth injuries, we work with them to help their children have the highest quality of life with their financial recoveries.
We spoke with Lisa Weinstein, principal at Grant & Eisenhofer and leader of the firm’s birth injury litigation division, about common healthcare errors during labor and delivery and what parents can do to be more informed.
Why do preventable birth injuries happen?
The core issue of a medical malpractice case involving a birth injury is that a healthcare professional violated “the standard of care.” More specifically, he or she failed to do what another professional in the same position would have reasonably done in the same or similar situation. Having litigated a wide variety of birth injury cases, Lisa broke down three primary mistakes from which many errors stem.
At every stage of labor and delivery, there needs to be clear communication between the nurses and physicians or midwives. “Nurses are the eyes and ears of the doctors, so there is an expectation that they will communicate with the doctor in a timely manner if something seems wrong or abnormal,” Lisa said. “But physicians are still obligated to check in with their patients, especially when they are on high alert medications such as Pitocin (generic oxytocin) or have concerning conditions. The entire healthcare team is responsible for ensuring a safe and effective labor and delivery process.”
Nurses receive training directly from the hospitals in order to comply with the standard of care. “This training includes hospital policy and procedures, including how to respond to a variety of situations and when to notify the treating healthcare provider,” Lisa said. The training the nurses receive through their hospitals as well as organizations such as AHWONN ensures that beside nurses are trained to advocate for their patients – mom and babies.
Health care providers should involve patients by making sure they understand the risks and benefits of certain choices they can make during the labor and delivery process. “While it’s not the role of the patient to make emergency healthcare decisions during labor and delivery, it is essential that they understand the care and medications that may be provided to them so they can make informed choices and provide informed consent,” Lisa said.
How patients can be more informed
While the responsibility lies with the healthcare provider to ensure a safe and smooth birth, parents may consider asking these questions to be more aware and set expectations:
- Who, and where, will my doctor be while I am in labor? “Parents may find it comforting and helpful to know which doctor is on call before they go to the hospital or once they have arrived,” Lisa said. “They can also inquire about the best ways to contact their physician, the practice’s afterhours phone number to use, and whom the backup physician will be if theirs is busy with another patient.”
- When can they expect to see the doctor? “Our firm has seen many situations in which doctors were nowhere to be found when they were needed the most,” Lisa said. “Understanding the expectation of patient-doctor contact can help parents advocate for the care they deserve.”
- What is the birth plan? Some parents choose to develop a birth plan with their doctor or midwife, which can outline a range of details. This may include simple desires like music and who will be present in the delivery room, but they may also address the use of certain medications and how the doctor will respond to issues during birth.
It’s helpful to be informed, but there is no expectation of the patient to address emergency situations or to understand every detail about the labor and delivery process. While asking the questions above can offer some peace of mind, it is the healthcare professionals who are responsible for providing the right communication and making the right decisions throughout the process.
Why a settlement or jury verdict is critical for injured babies and their parents
Babies who sustain birth injuries may require care throughout their lives. If a settlement or verdict is reached in a birth injury lawsuit, with the help of an experienced attorney, parents can develop a life care plan that outlines the full scope of the child’s needs – such as future surgeries, home care, equipment, and more. A lifetime of medical costs can be a major financial burden on a family. For parents of a child whose birth injuries were caused by a medical error, filing a claim may be the first step in giving the child the best quality of life.
The birth injury litigation team at Grant & Eisenhofer is uniquely positioned to assist the parents of children who suffered harm during birth. In addition to finding a firm that has expertise in birth injuries, it’s also critical to choose one with the resources to take the case on and see it through trial if needed. As a mother of three, Lisa not only understands the process and what it takes mentally and physically to go through pregnancy, labor, and delivery, but she has 15 years of birth injury litigation experience. The practice group is made up of passionate advocates whose only focus is birth injury litigation, and they represent clients nationwide. Their website, injuryfrombirth.com, is a helpful resource for parents of injured children who want to research preventable errors and resulting conditions, their state’s statute of limitations, and more.