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Looking at the risks of home birth: be careful what midwife you use, P.3

We’ve been looking in recent posts at the issue of home birth, the risks involved, and midwife professional liability. One important point we need to make about this topic is that, while home birth may be inherently risky, particularly for certain women, those who do take the risk of having a home birth don’t assume all the risk in the eyes of the law. Licensed midwives are still bound by professional standards of care and must answer for their negligence when they harm a patient.

Not every error will rise to the level of malpractice, of course, but only errors which violated an established standard of care. The American College of Nurse Midwives has defined certain general standards which licensed midwives are bound to follow. For example, as we’ve been discussing, midwives are expected to be qualified practitioners, which implies licensing, training and education as required. The standards of care cover a number of other areas of practice.  

The following are some of the expectations included in the practice standards:

  • Following federal and state regulations impacting the practice environment and infection control
  • Informing clients of the scope of midwifery services and following through on the agreement
  • Maintaining proper documentation of midwifery care
  • Seeking consultation to review problems, including peer review of care
  • Practicing in according with certain established codes of ethics and standard of practice

When a midwife acts negligently in providing care, those harmed by that negligence have the right to hold the midwife accountable. Rushing to court isn’t always the right solution. In some cases, settling a case may be the wise route to go, if that’s possible, but this should never be done at the expense of the patient’s interests. Working with an experienced malpractice attorney will help ensure that a potential malpractice case is not settled at the expense of the patient and that the patient’s interests are zealously advocated. 

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