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Can Obstetric Nurses be Charged with Medical Malpractice?

Published: Dec 28, 2020 in Medical Malpractice

Obstetric nurses bear the great responsibility of caring for mothers and babies during pregnancy and childbirth. Just like any other type of medical professional, they can be charged with medical malpractice if they negligently cause injury to a patient. There are several ways in which obstetric nurses may fail to uphold their medical obligations and consequently be held liable for any resulting injuries.

In determining liability, it must be decided whether the obstetric nurse deviated from the applicable medical standard of care. Medical malpractice plaintiffs must be able to show that the medical professional’s failure to uphold his or her duties caused their injury. To do so, the appropriate medical standard of care must first be established; this standard is specific to the circumstances and will vary depending on the field of medicine practiced by the medical professional. Therefore, to hold an obstetric nurse liable for medical malpractice, it must be proven that he or she acted in a manner that a competent obstetric nurse acting under similar circumstances would not have.

When an obstetric nurse fails to use reasonable care and a patient is harmed as a result, the obstetric nurse may be charged with medical malpractice. An obstetric nurse’s failure to perform up to the minimum standards accepted within the obstetric medical community can occur during the diagnosis, treatment, or follow-up care of a mother or a child. Common types of negligence that can lead to a medical malpractice lawsuit include:

Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose

When a health care professional fails to identify a birth defect or genetic disorder during a pregnancy; discover prenatal conditions, such as ectopic or tubal pregnancy; or diagnose any other health condition, he or she may be liable for medical malpractice. Other examples of medical malpractice claims based on misdiagnosis or failure to diagnose include undetected or untreated preeclampsia and failure to perform a timely cesarean section. The key to establishing liability in these cases is proving that a competent doctor in the same position would have discovered the patient’s illness or made the proper diagnosis.

Dispensing the Wrong Medication

A mother or her baby can suffer serious injury if the obstetric nurse dispenses the wrong medication. All medication, especially high alert medication like insulin, should be administered in the appropriate dosage, at the proper time, and to the correct individual. Medical professionals should also follow the correct protocols for administering medication in accordance with industry standards. If an obstetric nurse fails to check a medication label or a patient’s medical chart for allergies prior to dispensing medication, he or she may be liable for any injuries that occur as a result.

Lack of Informed Consent

Medical professionals are required to obtain a patient’s informed consent prior to performing any medical procedure. They must explain the recommended procedure or treatment, inform the patient of any known risks and potential side effects, and advise the patient of alternative options. If a mother receives treatment that she would not have chosen to receive had she been given informed consent and that treatment led to injury, she may be entitled to compensation from the obstetric nurse who did not obtain the required informed consent. Also, obstetric nurses have a duty to pass along important health information to the doctor; if a patient’s health is compromised as a result of their failure to do so, they may be liable for medical malpractice.

Improper Use of Medical Equipment

Obstetric nurses have a duty to sterilize and properly use all medical equipment. When they fail to do so, a mother or her child may be seriously injured. In childbirth, injuries may occur due to improper use of forceps, a device used to extract the baby from the birth canal. When too much pressure is applied, it can damage the baby’s skull or nerves and lead to injuries such as skull fracture, brain damage, laceration, facial nerve palsy, hemorrhaging, cerebral palsy, and developmental delays. Obstetricians are responsible for considering various factors in determining whether it is appropriate to use forceps, such as the position of the baby, cervical dilation, and the condition of the mother.

Injuries to the Mother or the Child During Pregnancy or Delivery

There are many types of injuries that a mother or child may suffer either before, during, or after delivery. It is the obstetric nurse’s responsibility to closely monitor patients throughout the entire process to ensure their health and safety. Failure to do so may lead to serious and debilitating injuries, including death of the fetus or the mother. The standard for determining liability is whether a similarly skilled and trained obstetric nurse in a similar position would have acted differently and thereby potentially saved the patient from injury.

What are the Available Types of Compensation in Medical Malpractice Lawsuits?

Several types of compensation are available in medical malpractice lawsuits. To remain eligible for compensation in Illinois, the suit must be filed within two years from the date that the patient knew or reasonably should have known of the injury. Damages in a medical malpractice lawsuit include compensation for medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and wrongful death. The amount a plaintiff may receive varies depending on the circumstances of the case, however there is no cap on any damages in Illinois medical malpractice cases.

Illinois Medical Malpractice Lawyers at The Cates Law Firm, LLC Represent Injured Patients in Birth-Related Medical Malpractice Suits

If you were injured by a negligent obstetric nurse, contact an Illinois medical malpractice lawyer at The Cates Law Firm, LLC. Our dedicated and experienced legal team will fight to obtain the compensation to which you are entitled. Contact us online or call 618-277-3644 for a free consultation. Located in Swansea, Illinois, we serve clients throughout Belleville, Carbondale, East St. Louis, Granite City, Edwardsville, Chester, Waterloo, St. Louis, Madison County, St. Clair County, Monroe County, and Randolph County.