Midwife - Medical Malpractice Lawyer
A midwife is a medical professional who has a duty of care to provide competent support, care and advice during pregnancy, labour and the post-partum period. This care includes taking preventative measures and competently detecting possible complications in mother and child, ensuring access to medical care or other appropriate assistance, and the carrying out of emergency measures. Where injuries and disabilities occur because of professional misconduct or neglect, the patient has legal rights to pursue a compensation claim. This is where we can help. Our midwife medical malpractice lawyers are experienced in handling claims for compensation based on negligence on the part of midwives. If you are unsure whether there was negligence involved in your pregnancy and/or labor you should seek legal advice. Contact us today to find out whether you are entitled to compensation. This is an obligation-free claim service.
A midwife is an individual who has been trained to manage pregnancy and the delivery of babies. In many countries, midwives must be certified and in most of Canada they are called ‘registered midwives’. They have had nursing training and extra training in midwifery and are certified competent by passing their state boards. In some countries, certification is not necessary and midwives are self identified. Midwives in Canada are registered healthcare practitioners and can be sued by medical malpractice lawyer in the same way as a negligent doctor.
Midwives are trained in managing the normal pregnancy and delivery and are supposed to refer high risk pregnancies to doctors who can manage or co-manage the pregnancy and delivery. Most midwives work with doctors who oversee their case load to varying degrees although, in some countries, midwives act independently of doctors unless there is an emergency.
Midwives have an important role in the education of the pregnant women, the woman’s partner and the woman’s family when it comes to matters of pregnancy, childbirth and, in some cases, childcare. Midwives can give advice on how to eat during pregnancy and can give advice on lactation (breastfeeding). Midwives practice in the community, the home, hospitals, clinics or birthing centers.
The concept of “midwives” predates history when women who were respected healers in the community aided in the delivery of infants. There are references to midwifery in the Bible and in ancient Egyptian records as early as 1900 BCE. Greek and Roman midwives were also a part of their culture. In more recent times, midwifery went out of favor in the early 1800s, when surgeons were given the role of delivering infants. Midwives were relegated to rural areas where surgeons did not often practice.
In Canada, midwives are licensed as registered midwives in most states and are considered advanced practice nurses. Many registered midwives have master’s degrees in nursing, midwifery or public health and practice in private offices, hospitals and medical clinics. They deliver babies in patient’s homes, birthing centers and in some hospitals. They can prescribe medications legally. Ninety eight percent of midwives are women.
Midwives have a serious duty of care when it comes to providing support to pregnant women that is competent, caring and of the correct advice and direction. This also applies to labor and delivery, and to the immediate post-partum period up to 6 weeks following the birth of the infant. Midwives must screen for the various hereditary diseases that can occur in pregnancy and must screen for potential problems in pregnancy, such as diabetes of pregnancy (gestational diabetes) and anemia of pregnancy. They need to competently recommend iron supplementation, prenatal vitamins and calcium supplementation if the diet is insufficient when it comes to iron and calcium or when anemia occurs. In the event of injury to the child or the mother due to the midwife failing to achieve the required standard of care, a medical malpractice lawyer can take legal action claiming compensation for negligence by way of medical malpractice.
It is also the responsibility of the midwife to identify and abort potential emergency situations that occur in pregnancy and delivery, including pre-ecclampsia, fetal distress and other medical and obstetrical emergencies.
Most midwives are extremely competent and know their strengths and limitations. There are some, however, who choose not to work with a qualified physician who can handle their surgical or serious obstetrical needs and who are not proficient at what they do. They put infants at risk for things such as brain injury, brachial plexus palsy, cerebral palsy, and fetal death. They also put mothers at risk for subsequent infertility and damage to gynecological structures. Mothers can also be at risk for increased post-partum depression and anxiety if not managed properly by the nurse midwife. In these cases in the event of injury, a midwife medical malpractice lawyer can take legal action claiming compensation for medical malpractice.
It is important to remember that not all bad outcomes are due to negligence. Pregnancy is a tenuous situation and is fraught with potential hazards that cannot be screened for or prevented. Labor is even more tenuous and almost anything can happen. It is up to the midwife, however, to recognize when an emergency has taken place and to get the proper help from a gynecologist or surgeon. Failure to do so may result in a medical malpractice lawyer taking legal action for medical malpractice.
There are areas of medical neglect in which midwives can fall short. Medical neglect usually amounts to medical malpractice. These medical situations include the following :
- Failure to provide adequate care to the pregnant mother during and after pregnancy
- Failure to recognize foreseeable issues in pregnancy, labor and delivery
- Failure to consult with more experienced colleagues in cases of medical emergencies
- Improper use of the vacuum extractor or forceps resulting in fetal injury
- Failure to follow the care plan as previously outlined by the midwife and mother
- Failure to obtain an informed consent from the mother
- Inadequate medical records being kept by the nurse midwife
- Improper use of medications or medication errors
- Doing things outside the scope of accepted midwifery
- Engaging in misinformation or misrepresentation of the midwife’s role in the care and delivery of newborn infants and pregnant mothers.
There is a range of possible injuries that can be attributable to inadequate antenatal care of the newborn. Those injuries that can happen to the infant include a skull fracture, brain damage, brain hemorrhage or cephalhematoma, cerebral palsy, facial lacerations and bruising from forceps deliveries, nerve palsy of the facial nerve, brachial plexus palsy (Erb’s palsy), shoulder dystocia and fetal death or infant death due to infection, injury, or anoxia. Most of these conditions are extremely serious and you should take expert legal advice as soon as possible from a medical malpractice lawyer.
Pregnant mothers can suffer from injury due to inadequate ante-partum care. Some of these injuries can include injuries to the labia, perineum or vagina with excessive bleeding. She can have perineal or pudendal nerve injury, especially if the baby is big or the midwife uses forceps. There can be fecal incontinence if the anal muscles aren’t repaired properly. There can be infertility, bladder problems and incontinence if the bladder is damaged. Women can experience subsequent sexual dysfunction or pain on sexual intercourse (dyspareunia) and can experience injuries related to improper use of medications or medication errors. Psychological trauma, including severe depression and anxiety can occur with inadequate treatment, fetal problems, or maternal problems. The midwife can fail to recognize post-partum depression or psychosis, resulting in danger to the mother or the infant. In severe cases, the mother can die from birth complications. In the event of any injury to the mother or the child you should take expert legal advice as soon as possible from a medical malpractice lawyer.
Women who choose to have a midwife manage their pregnancy need to recognize that there are certain limitations on what a midwife can and cannot do because of their training and experience. The delivery must be all natural with few medications available for pain or to augment labor, if necessary. Cesarean sections cannot be performed by a midwife and the midwife must have a close relationship with a doctor who can do these things and who can give advice when things don’t go as planned.LEGAL HELPLINE: ☎ 855 804 7125
The author of the substantive medical writing on this website is Dr. Christine Traxler MD whose biography can be read here