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Medical Malpractice: C-Sections, Surgical Risks & Patient Consent

Published on Jun 19, 2018 at 3:20 pm in Birth Injury.

Doctors have a legal duty to treat patients in accordance to established medical guidelines and standards, as doing so is critical to avoiding preventable injuries. While evaluating whether a medical professional took appropriate steps to treat a patient as a reasonably skillful doctor would under the same or similar circumstances is an important part of determining whether negligence played a role in causing birth injuries, it is also important to evaluate whether or not doctors adequately discussed information about procedures and associated risks – including risks related to cesarean sections, or C-sections for short.

During pregnancy, doctors have ample opportunity to speak with and evaluate pregnant mothers, conduct testing, and prepare them for delivery. This includes an evaluation of potential risk factors and complications that would necessitate a C-section per accepted medical guidelines, including:

  • Twin births
  • Large babies, or a history of large babies
  • Placental problems
  • Chronic health conditions (diabetes, high blood pressures, etc.)
  • Infections
  • Premature labor
  • Complications during labor and delivery

Doctors have a legal duty to properly interpret test results and discussions with mothers to evaluate foreseeable risks associated with vaginal delivery. When appropriate, they should discuss the possibility of C-sections with mothers as a means to avoid and mitigate these risks, as well as risks inherent to C-section procedures themselves.

Is Medical Negligence Involved?

If a doctor failed to discuss C-sections and / or risks associated with them before your delivery, it could mean that they were not appropriately assessing complications they could and should have foreseen. This means that if they attempt to deliver a baby naturally when circumstances and medical standards would necessitate a C-section – such as through induction and use of Pitocin or labor-inducing drugs, medical devices like forceps or vacuums, or other methods – they may be held liable for injuries resulting from a failure to perform a C-section, or delays in performing a C-section.

Not discussing C-sections and associated risks with mothers may also constitute medical malpractice when physicians decide to perform the procedure without obtaining a mothers consent. Although medical professionals can perform medical procedures in emergency situations (which constitutes a patient’s implied consent), experts suggest that only approximately 5% of C-sections are true emergencies. This means doctors would need to obtain a patient’s informed consent to perform a C-section in most cases – either as an elective procedure, a result of their evaluations, or a possibility should certain complications arise. When obtaining informed consent, doctors must also warn mothers about potential risks to themselves and their babies. If a doctor does not discuss risks or the procedure thoroughly with a patient, it may constitute a lack of consent.

Determining whether medical negligence was involved in your birth injury case – whether it involves injuries to the mother or the baby – is a case-by-case matter. Our legal team at Shrager & Sachs leverages over 80 years of collective experience to fight for medical malpractice and birth injury victims across Pennsylvania, including those who have been harmed as a result of C-section errors, lack of consent, and other forms of medical negligence. Our Philadelphia birth injury lawyers are available to review your potential case and discuss whether you may have a right to seek legal action and a recovery of your damages.

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