Mothers may experience complications during childbirth which tragically result in permanent and debilitating injuries for the mother and/or child due to inadequate medical advice or treatment by midwives, the hospital or obstetricians. RMB Lawyers Special Counsel MARGARET CURRAN explains the redress available under these difficult circumstances:
Giving birth is one of the most joyful and challenging experiences for an expectant mother. However, it can also be the most traumatic when complications arise, whether they are physical or psychological.
Common injuries from mistreatment may include nerve damage, skull fracture during delivery, inadequate resuscitation at birth, forceps or instrumental trauma, perineal tears and pelvic fractures. Injuries to the newborn including oxygen deprivation or head injury resulting in brain injury or cerebral palsy, brachial plexus injury, infection, broken bones or fractures. Major psychological injuries for the mother including post natal depression and nervous shock are also possible.
However, people affected by these tragedies can claim compensation against the hospital or medical staff, including midwives and obstetricians.
To succeed in a claim in NSW the plaintiff, that is the mother and/or baby, must prove the hospital/or the obstetrician owed a duty of care; that duty of care was breached by the obstetrician, the midwife or hospital; and that the breach of duty caused physical, psychological or psychiatric injuries to mother and/or baby.
In deciding to bring a claim a person would consider the cost of ongoing treatment and costly surgery; physical and/or psychological pain affecting the capacity to enjoy life; injury that prevents the mother from working and thus reduces her capacity to earn an income; and the inability of the mother and/or the father to provide caring responsibilities or attending to household chores, leaving them to incur considerable costs in paying for such services, or having to rely on family members for assistance.
Symptoms of trauma may include ongoing abdominal or back pain; fear of giving birth again; embarrassment and lack of self-confidence; depression and anxiety; pelvic floor laxity or pelvic organ prolapse; pain at the site of a tear; difficulties and pain during intercourse; and bladder issues.
Any mother or parent contemplating such proceedings should seek legal advice as it is a complex area of law. The relevant issues must be properly identified, and liability and medical expert evidence obtained addressing liability and damage as the plaintiff bears the onus of proof,
Generally, proceedings must be commenced within three years of the injury. If you are concerned about you birthing experience, your first step should be to contact our office to arrange a free consultation. You can contact us by by phone or our 'Ask a Question' tool on our website.