Is it more risky to have a midwife deliver your baby than a physician? While it is common to assume so, many midwives are highly trained and licensed nurse-midwives who practice in hospitals and medical clinics. Aspiring midwives attend midwifery education programs accredited by the American College of Nurse-Midwives and then later take an examination administered by the American Midwifery Certification Board. They frequently collaborate with physicians on a number of cases, including high-risk pregnancies. Yet what happens when a midwife delivery goes wrong?
This was the case last month, when a midwife in Concord, New Hampshire settled a lawsuit for $730,000 after a delivery gone wrong resulted in the baby being born with a severe brain injury. Sarah Sadowski, the mother, accused Jeanne Browne, founder of the Concord Birth and Wellness Center, of not giving her proper care during the course of her pregnancy. Even though she showed several risk factors, Browne never referred her to an obstetrician. She also did not send Sadowski to the hospital when the baby showed no signs of a heartbeat in utero. Even after birth, when the baby still had no heartbeat, Browne did not call for an ambulance. As a result of her medical mistakes, the Sadowskis' baby spent 21 days in the hospital and now suffers from cerebral palsy. Of the $730,000, $386,000 will be put in a trust for the girl so that she does not lose her Medicaid eligibility. Most of the rest will go to pay attorney's fees and Medicaid reimbursement for expenses incurred after the birth.
It is not clear whether Browne carried malpractice insurance. Midwives are not required to in the state of New Hampshire, but many choose to do so. Several insurance companies will not cover midwives who do not carry malpractice insurance.
What this case illustrates is that even though midwives are not physicians, they are medical professionals who can be sued for malpractice when a baby suffers from birth trauma after a delivery gone wrong. In a malpractice suit, you would argue that the midwife owed you a duty of care to provide as safe a delivery as possible, that the midwife breached this duty by making a mistake that was preventable, the mistake caused you injury, and you suffered damage in the form of your child's birth defect. People who sue for malpractice can potentially get damages (a money amount) for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and more.
A hospital or physician who employs the midwife can also be sued under the "vicarious liability" theory. With vicarious liability, an employer is found to be liable for the mistakes of his/her employees -- as long as the employee made the mistakes while performing his/her regular job duties. Therefore, in the case of a midwife who makes a medical error, the hospital or physician could be held responsible for his/her mistake.
The birth defect lawyers at Oshman & Mirisola, LLP have successfully represented clients in birth defect lawsuits for more than 35 years. If your child suffers from cerebral palsy or erb's palsy that you believe may be due to a midwife's mistake during delivery, please contact us today at (800) 400-8182 or submit our online Contact Us form.