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Failure to Refer to a Physician

In the US, only about 1% of expectant mothers give birth at home in any given year, but more and more parents have been considering this option recently. Some choose at-home labor and delivery procedures for religious or cultural reasons, financial reasons, or simply a preference for home comforts over clinical hospital settings. Expectant parents might find this a more attractive option, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Expectant parents have concerns about viral exposure in a hospital setting, restrictions on visitors, and a host of other issues. Midwives can work in a variety of settings, including in the patient's home, health clinics, hospitals, birth centers, public health systems, and private offices.

Midwives attending at-home births have a responsibility to recognize and respond appropriately to any birth complications that may arise. Those who neglect this standard of care may be held liable for medical malpractice. Midwives should seek medical intervention from physicians as soon as possible when labor and delivery become high risk. This may occur at any point during a woman's prenatal care or labor. Unfortunately, some midwives wait too long to seek medical intervention. Because such medical intervention may require a patient's transport to another facility, waiting even just a few minutes may lead to serious injury or death. If a baby is not getting enough oxygen, a brain injury could likely result if action is not taken quickly. If a cesarean section becomes necessary, failing to intervene could result in the death of the baby or the mother. If you or your child sustained injuries due to a midwife's failure to seek medical intervention from a physician, call now to schedule a free initial consultation with the experienced medical malpractice and birth injury lawyers of DeFrancisco & Falgiatano, LLP.

Many midwives delay making an emergency referral because they think they can handle any complications that may arise. If the midwife was clearly out of their element and things were spiraling out of control, the midwife may be liable for failing to seek emergency assistance at the first sign of problems. A midwife has an important responsibility to determine when a patient's needs go beyond their ability to provide good care. There are instances in which a patient needs a professional with more specialized knowledge and experience, such as an obstetrician or a gynecologist. When a midwife does not give that referral, either at all or in a timely manner, and the patient suffers as a result, it is considered a failure to refer. There may be cases in which the damages caused by the failure to refer were found to be unavoidable. However, there are also many instances in which the harm could have been prevented if the midwife had provided a timely referral. Our firm has extensive experience handling medical malpractice and birth injury cases.

Midwives are trained healthcare providers and, as such, they owe a duty of care to their patients. If they fail to uphold that duty of care, they may be held liable for the injuries or deaths that result. Midwives may breach their duty of care when they do things like fail to recognize the signs of a problem or delay consulting with a doctor or specialist when complications arise. When midwives fail to see and address potential complications during birth or attempt to handle cases where substantial medical risk is present, they place the health of the mother and child in jeopardy. There are several common types of medical malpractice specific to midwifery, including but not limited to:

  • Failing to consult a doctor about a high-risk pregnancy
  • Failing to defer to a doctor's judgment
  • Failure to recognize fetal distress
  • Failure to recognize or properly escalate treatment due to a maternal health complication
  • Lack of experience or other incompetence that leads to avoidable errors

A midwife who does not refer a patient to a doctor when circumstances arise during a pregnancy that requires knowledge or skill outside the midwife's scope of practice can be at fault for a baby's birth injury. Midwives can spot signs of distress but fail to interpret them correctly or identify the need for medical intervention. They may recognize the baby's abnormalities but fail or delay in calling for doctors or transfers from birth centers to a hospital. In all these cases, the midwives can be held liable if a child suffers brain damage that results in cerebral palsy.

If you or a loved one were injured due to a midwife's failure to seek medical intervention from a qualified physician, DeFrancisco & Falgiatano medical malpractice lawyers may be able to help you recover damages from responsible parties. We represent injured patients in Syracuse, Rochester, Binghamton, Auburn, Elmira, Norwich, Cortland, Delhi, Herkimer, Watertown, Lowville, Oneida, Wampsville, Utica, Canandaigua, Oswego, Cooperstown, Ithaca, Lyons, and all of Upstate New York. For a free consultation by our medical malpractice lawyers, call us at 833-200-2000.

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