Giving birth is both one of the most common and one of the most dangerous procedures performed by a medical professional. Both mother and child (or children) can sustain injury if even a small mistake is made, and many such injuries will occur due to what is referred to as shoulder dystocia. This condition is a primary concern for obstetricians during delivery.
Facts and Statistics
Shoulder dystocia is defined as a condition in which a newborn’s shoulder becomes lodged behind the pubic bone or in another spot in the birth canal and cannot be freed without either significant manipulation or cesarean section. It can cause multiple birth injuries in a newborn, including cerebral palsy and other nerve injuries, as well as internal bleeding and post-delivery complications for the mother.
In terms of general numbers of cases in comparison to the total number of births in any given year, the incidence of shoulder dystocia is low, only affecting a number between 0.6 and 1.4 percent of average-sized infants (weighing roughly between 5 and 8 pounds). However, the rate does rise as high as 9 percent for infants weighing more than 8 pounds, 13 ounces. The single most critical risk factor for shoulder dystocia is the use of an aid in delivery, such as a forceps or vacuum extractor. Generally, such tools are too imprecise to give the obstetrician enough control to guide the newborn through the birth canal without becoming stuck.
Malpractice and Shoulder Dystocia
It can be quite difficult to prove malpractice in cases of shoulder dystocia, simply because the condition can happen so quickly and without warning. However, when it does occur, a competent surgeon or obstetrician will have a repertoire of options, and will do their utmost to avert a potential crisis in an appropriate way. For example, ordering a cesarean section may be warranted, or performing the McRoberts maneuver to try and give the newborn more room in which to adjust may be appropriate. Failure to do so can and often does result in liability.
Like any medical malpractice case, shoulder dystocia cases have four main criteria:
- The existence of a duty of care between doctor and patient, established by law in Illinois;
- The duty of care must have been breached;
- The doctor’s conduct cause the breach with no intervening cause; and
- Actual harm was caused to the patient as a result.
Harm need not be physical, though it almost always is in birth injury cases - the most common injury sustained is nerve palsy - either Erb’s, Klumpke’s (which affect different parts of the nervous system) or cerebral palsy.
Contact a Birth Injury Attorney
Experiencing an injury is one thing, but witnessing your baby experiencing an injury can be quite another. If you or your child has been a victim, experienced and intelligent representation is critical. The dedicated Kane County medical malpractice attorneys at Kinnally Flaherty Krentz Loran Hodge & Masur, P.C., understand how frightening it can be to experience negligence in a medical setting, and we will do our best to help guide you through the process of making your family whole. Contact us today to set up an initial consultation.