What is Birth Malpractice?

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  • Written By: Jessica Ellis
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 18 May 2019
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Birth malpractice is a legal term used to describe a birth-related injury due to negligence or misconduct on the part of the attending doctor. Since birth is at best a difficult process, it is not unusual that birth malpractice suits are extremely common in many parts of the world. Not all birth injuries or complications may be a result of birth malpractice, and in many places substantial evidence of malpractice is required in order to prosecute.

Though a natural process, birth is in truth extremely dangerous and complicated for both mother and child. There are many problems that can occur during labor, from oxygen deprivation to the transmission of diseases. Birth malpractice suits are often brought when an infant or mother suffers long-term or permanent damage due to problems during the labor process that were not adequately addressed. In some cases, doctors can also be sued for birth malpractice for failing to diagnose prenatal fetal conditions that led to additional problems upon birth.


Many of the conditions associated with birth malpractice are a result of a prolonged labor where the baby's oxygen is compromised. Cerebral palsy, Erb's palsy, and other brain damaging conditions are often a result of severe fetal distress or oxygen problems during labor. There are many factors that can prolong a labor and increase risk factors for permanently damaging medical problems, such as incorrectly positioned babies, wrapping of the umbilical cord around the neck of the baby, or a small birth canal. Doctors that do not correctly diagnosis these issues, or fail to notice and properly treat them due to negligence or incompetence, may be liable for damages in a birth malpractice suit.

Birth injuries can also occur due to poor handling of the fetus or mother during labor. If a doctor causes fractures in either the mother or child, this may be an opening for a malpractice suit. Fractures during infancy can be quite serious, as bones have not finished development. Permanent disability may be caused if the fracture is not discovered or treated quickly.

It is important to understand that birth injuries are quite common, and even the best, most well-respected doctor cannot always perform a perfectly smooth labor due to complications. Plaintiffs in a malpractice suit must generally demonstrate that the injuries caused could have been avoided with proper care. If negligence or incompetent behavior does appear to be a factor, it is important to get legal help immediately, as the rules and laws of malpractice are often complex and vary extensively between regions.



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