Who Is at Fault When a C-Section Goes Wrong?


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Newborns can be delivered via vaginal delivery or Cesarean section, and there are numerous factors that can impact why a certain type of delivery is best for each pregnant woman. Some mothers will insist on doing everything possible to ensure that they are able to deliver their babies vaginally. In other instances, a Cesarean section may be scheduled because of how the baby is positioned, or an emergency Cesarean section may become necessary if the baby or mother is in severe distress.

In 2015, roughly 32 percent of deliveries were Cesarean sections, which means that 1,272,503 C-sections were performed in the United States that year, compared to 2,703,504 vaginal deliveries. It is also important to note that the Cesarean section rate was right around 20 percent in 1997 and 30 percent in 2005, indicating that the number of C-sections being performed each year has been on a steady increase.

One myth that exists surrounding Cesarean sections is that it is the “easy way out.” So long are the hours spent pushing, and you can even schedule exactly when you want to have the baby. However, this is far from the reality in the vast majority of deliveries involving a C-section. A Cesarean section is a major surgery, which means it comes with a longer recovery time and even greater risk factors.

C-Section Medical Malpractice

When it comes to medical malpractice regarding Cesarean sections, there are two primary categories that most cases will fall into:

  • Failure to perform a Cesarean section
  • Surgical error during a Cesarean section

Cesarean sections are performed when there is a reason that a woman cannot deliver her baby vaginally or there is a medical emergency to get the baby out as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, there are instances where doctors, nurses, or other medical professionals fail to provide the expected medical standard of care. For example, a nurse may fail to properly monitor the unborn baby, which results in the signs of fetal distress going unnoticed. Or a woman’s OB/GYN may fail to recognize certain prenatal indicators (such as pre-eclampsia, placental abruption, or placental previa), which can have dire results for both the baby and mother if a C-section is not performed in a timely manner.

Even if the need for a Cesarean section is recognized and the procedure is performed, negligence can still occur while the woman is on the operating table. A few of the common surgical errors that a mother can face during a Cesarean section include, lacerated organs, broken bones, improper wound closure, and anesthesia errors. Additionally, the baby may also suffer from oxygen deprivation or lacerations from a botched procedure.

Who Is at Fault?

During the labor and delivery process, a woman will encounter numerous medical professionals. Nurses will monitor vitals for both the mother and baby. Anesthesiologists will administer an epidural to keep the mother comfortable so that she can stay awake during the delivery. If it is an emergency C-section, the anesthesiologist may put the mother under general anesthesia for the procedure.

If a vaginal delivery is attempted first, an OB/GYN will be present once the mother starts pushing. During a C-section, the doctor is the one who makes the incision, removes the baby, and stitches up the woman’s uterus and abdomen.

The advantage of having so many medical professionals involved during labor and delivery is that they can work together to ensure that a woman and her baby receive the best medical care possible. The disadvantage of having nurses, doctors, and anesthesiologists all involved is that one act of negligence by any of these individuals could be harmful for the mother or baby.

Did the labor and delivery nurse fail to update the doctor that mother or baby was in distress? Did the doctor wait too long to perform the Cesarean section? Did the doctor damage internal organs of the mother during the procedure? Did the anesthesiologist administer a dangerous amount of anesthesia?

Filing a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit

If you have reason to believe that you, your baby, or a loved one were severely injured during a Cesarean section, it is necessary to consult with a medical malpractice attorney. An experienced lawyer will work with you and other medical experts to determine when the negligence occurred and who was at fault for the injury. Additionally, you must also be sure that you file your medical malpractice claim within the statute of limitations, which is two years in many states.

Ross Feller Casey is the recognized leader in birth injury lawsuits in Pennsylvania and across the nation, and the firm has won numerous multi-million-dollar recoveries in cases involving C-sections. Contact the leading birth injury attorneys at Ross Feller Casey to learn more about your legal options and to receive a free case evaluation.

Disclaimer: Ross Feller Casey, LLP provides legal advice only after an attorney-client relationship is formed. Our website is an introduction to the firm and does not create a relationship between our attorneys and clients. An attorney-client relationship is formed only after a written agreement is signed by the client and the firm. Because every case is unique, the description of awards and summary of cases successfully handled are not intended to imply or guarantee that same success in other cases. Ross Feller Casey, LLP represents catastrophically injured persons and their families in injury and wrongful death cases, providing legal representation in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.