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There has been a growing effort among both medical professionals and public health organizations over the last few years to stem the rate of elective cesarean sections, which is currently hovering around one out of every three births, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The reason behind this effort is that c-sections, like any other major surgical procedure, are inherently risky to both the mother and the baby.
However, there is one scenario in which it is almost universally accepted among medical professionals that a c-section should be scheduled: when the baby is in the breech position, meaning it will likely be delivered with its feet or buttocks positioned first.
According to an opinion released by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the risk of serious birth injuries or death is significantly higher for breech babies born via traditional (i.e., vaginal) delivery versus scheduled c-sections. It goes on to state that while traditional delivery of breech babies by a physician with “reasonable” experience is acceptable, “great caution should be exercised” and that a c-section is generally the preferred route.
Interestingly, a couple in the state of Oregon recently filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against a hospital that specifically advertises its ability to perform successful traditional deliveries of breech babies.
Back in 2011, an expectant mother who had already scheduled a c-section to deliver her breech baby was conducting research and came upon the website of an Oregon hospital that touted the abilities and expertise of its physicians in delivering breech babies traditionally.
Understandably enthused, the woman and her husband consulted with physicians at the hospital and decided to cancel the c-section and attempt a traditional delivery of their breech baby.
According to the complaint, things went terribly wrong two days later. The hospital physicians continued to pursue the traditional birth even though serious complications arose; their baby had an abnormal heart rate for 20 minutes and was not resuscitated quickly enough.
These medical mistakes, claims the lawsuit, resulted in the onset of “catastrophic, permanent and irreversible” brain damage. Specifically, it claims the baby was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy due to the oxygen deprivation.
The lawsuit, which names both the hospital and multiple physicians, argues that the physicians persuaded the couple to undergo “an unreasonably dangerous” delivery that was contrary to accepted medical standards and also downplayed the risks associated with the delivery to the couple. This in turn fostered a false sense of reliance in the couple, who were also told by the physicians that they would switch to a c-section in the event anything went wrong.
“At what point does the public have the right to trust what a doctor is saying?” asked the plaintiff’s attorney. “When do you get to believe them?”
Stay tuned for updates …
If your family has been devastated by a birth injury here in Pennsylvania, consider speaking with an experienced attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and your options for securing justice.
Source: The Oregonian, “OHSU faces $25.6 million malpractice lawsuit over vaginal delivery of breech baby,” Helen Jung, September 24, 2013