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What should we know about medical malpractice and prenatal care?

Mothers go through extreme physical and emotional pain during the labor and delivery process. We now have medical advances and technologies within health care settings to help ease the pain and better ensure a healthy outcome for all involved. As a first world country, we expect the United States to have a strong health care system and be able to provide quality care for mothers during this time of need.

Unfortunately, this is not always the case. The United States is one of few first world countries that has experienced an increase in maternal mortality rates. A recent study published in the prestigious Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) found that maternal mortality rates in the U.S. are “unacceptably high.” In response to these findings, the United States Department of Health and Human Services has made a commitment to better ensuring every mother receives needed treatment.

One of the first steps toward reducing this mortality rate will likely include a review of how we provide and manage prenatal care.

How is the U.S. doing when it comes to provision of prenatal care?

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) dug into prenatal care in the U.S. and found that we have room for improvement. The agency noted many mothers report mistreatment during the course of prenatal care. In a recent study, researchers surveyed thousands of women and found that one in five experienced some form of medical mistreatment during their pregnancy.

What is prenatal mistreatment?

Examples of mistreatment included verbal abuse, threats to withhold treatment, forced unwanted treatment, and infringement upon one’s physical privacy. This could lead to serious injury to the mother and child and can include:

  • Failure to treat maternal infection,
  • Failure to run appropriate tests,
  • Failure to diagnosis illness, and
  • Failure to order cesarean section when medically necessary.

These failures can result in life-long injuries including organ damage to the mother or brain injury to the child.

What are my options if I am the victim of mistreatment during prenatal care?

Legal remedies are likely available if prenatal mistreatment resulted in serious injury to the mother or child. The rules that guide these cases are generally subject to state law. Louisiana state law defines malpractice as any unintentional tort or breach of contract based on health care services that include a failure to provide timely and appropriate care. A tort is essentially a negligent act or omission that results in injury. As such, the above examples often qualify for legal remedies in Louisiana.

State law also expects physicians and medical providers provide quality care. This standard is set by the degree of skill provided by another professional in good standing in the community in a similar situation. Those looking to seek legal remedies will often need expert testimony to help determine whether a provider met this standard or not.

It is also important to note that there is a statute of limitations, or time limit, for those who wish to bring these claims. An attorney experienced in this niche area of personal injury law can review your case and discuss whether you qualify for potential legal remedies.