C-Sections: Were They Discussed Before Your Delivery?
Doctors and midwives have a legal duty to treat patients in accordance to established medical guidelines and standards, as doing so is critical to avoiding preventable injuries. While evaluating whether a medical professional took appropriate steps to treat a patient as a reasonably skillful doctor would under the same or similar circumstances is an important part of determining whether negligence played a role in causing birth injuries, it is also important to evaluate whether or not doctors adequately discussed information about procedures and associated risks – including risks related to cesarean sections, or C-sections for short.
During pregnancy, doctors, midwives, and labor and delivery nurses have ample opportunity to speak with pregnant mothers, conduct testing, and prepare them for delivery. This includes an evaluation of potential risk factors and complications that would necessitate a C-section, including:
- Twin births
- Large babies, or a history of large babies
- Placental problems
- Chronic health conditions (diabetes, high blood pressures, etc.)
- Infections, such as group B strep
- Premature labor
- Complications during labor and delivery
- Excessive Pitocin usage causing decreased blood flow from the mother to the fetus, resulting in fetal distress
Doctors and midwives have a legal duty to properly interpret test results and discussions with mothers to evaluate foreseeable risks associated with vaginal delivery. When appropriate, they should discuss the possibility of C-sections with mothers as a means to avoid and mitigate these risks, as well as risks inherent to C-section procedures themselves.
Is Medical Negligence Involved?
If a doctor failed to discuss C-section before your delivery, it could mean that they were not appropriately assessing risk factors they could and should have foreseen. This means that if they attempt to deliver a baby naturally when circumstances and medical standards would necessitate a C-section – such as through induction and use of Pitocin or labor-inducing drugs, medical devices like forceps or vacuums, or other methods – they may be held liable for injuries resulting from a failure to perform a C-section, or delays in performing a C-section.
Similarly, a delay in recognizing fetal distress can lead to an emergency which can then result in a rushed delivery and injuries to the mother. We have handled many cases where the electronic fetal tracing machine was simply turned off and monitoring was stopped. By the time the fetal distress was recognized, it was a true emergency, and the mother was caused to suffer terrible injuries including hysterectomies, damage to the mother’s bowels, and other disastrous complications.
Failing to properly monitor the mother and fetus for well-being, and not being careful to consider a cesarean section when required, and then discussing the potential need for cesarean delivery and associated risks with mothers or family members may also constitute medical malpractice. Although medical professionals can perform medical procedures in emergency situations (which constitutes a patient’s implied consent), experts suggest that only approximately 5% of C-sections are true emergencies. This means doctors would need to obtain a patient’s informed consent to perform a C-section in most cases – either as an elective procedure, a result of their evaluations, or a possibility should certain complications arise. When obtaining informed consent, doctors must also warn mothers about potential risks to themselves and their babies. If a doctor does not discuss risks or the procedure thoroughly with a patient, it may constitute a lack of consent.
Determining whether medical negligence was involved in your birth injury case – whether it involves injuries to the mother or the baby – is a case-by-case matter. Our legal team at The Beasley Firm, LLC has extensive experience representing birth injury victims across Pennsylvania and beyond, including those who have been harmed as a result of C-section errors, lack of consent, and other forms of medical negligence. We can review your potential case and discuss whether you may have a right to seek legal action and a recovery of your damages.
To discuss your case, contact us for a FREE consultation.