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Shoulder Dystocia

Out of the entire pantheon of possible birth injuries that can occur both naturally and via medical malpractice, shoulder dystocia is one of the most universally feared. The main reason is because it occurs in a split-second time frame – even a competent doctor nominally in control of a delivery can miss it. This also can mean that it is difficult to determine whether shoulder dystocia occurred in that instance from malpractice or from natural events.

Time Is Of The Essence

While shoulder dystocia is rare, it must be dealt with extremely quickly when it does occur. It occurs more often in larger babies – between 5-9% of the time in babies over 9 pounds – but it can also happen in smaller children. Conversely, as one might expect, there is also a higher incidence of shoulder dystocia occurring in smaller women. Other risk factors include gestational diabetes in the mother, and a late delivery (past the due date, in other words).

There are no symptoms to speak of aside from your baby being stalled in the birth canal, but a doctor must act fast if this happens. Most of the time, the crisis can be averted by employing one or more maneuvers developed by obstetricians, such as the McRoberts maneuver, which involves having the mother position her legs in such a way that the pubic bone may be moved away from obstructing the child being born. However, in extreme cases, a cesarean section may be necessary, or even to break the baby’s collarbone so it can pass through the birth canal without delay.

Malpractice Implications

As stated, shoulder dystocia is a difficult problem to assess from a malpractice standpoint, because it can happen so quickly even when a doctor is using all possible care. In most instances, when a malpractice suit is brought, it is for the underlying harm, rather than for the shoulder dystocia itself. For example, sometimes the umbilical cord can become lodged underneath the baby as it is coming down the birth canal, which can lead to hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation. It is oxygen deprivation that can cause brain damage and potential long-lasting implications.

The occasions where shoulder dystocia is cited as a basis for a medical malpractice action are usually those in which a physician has failed to adequately diagnose it, or has not provided treatment in a sufficiently short time period to avert injury. Failure to diagnose a condition is a recognized cause of action, and if a physician breaches the standard of acceptable care – that is, if another physician of similar skill and experience would have diagnosed shoulder dystocia and acted accordingly – it is prima facie evidence of malpractice.

Contact A Medical Malpractice Attorney

Injuries to babies are just as hard on their parents. If you believe your child’s injury was caused by the negligence of a medical professional, you may want to get a professional involved. The West Palm Beach firm of Gary Roberts & Associates has medical experts on staff, and the lion’s share of our practice in medical malpractice-related matters. We do our best to work around your schedule, offering appointments at flexible hours, and we are also able to accommodate those who prefer to speak Spanish. Contact our office to discuss your options today; the first consultation is free.

 

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