Our firm handles medical malpractice birth injury cases in Maryland.
But we also handle cases involving a much less discussed topic: medical negligence during pregnancy or childbirth that causes injury or death to the mom.
Between 700 to 900 women die from pregnancy or childbirth-related causes every year in the United States. An estimated 65,000 develop complications that put their lives at risk. Childbearing is the sixth most common cause of death among women aged 20 to 34 in the United States.
Incredibly and tragically, among women of reproductive age in high-income countries, rates of death from avoidable causes, including pregnancy-related complications, are highest in the United States.
The risk is greatest among older mothers, women who live in rural areas, African-Americans, and low-income women. Women with diabetes and preexisting cardiac conditions are also at increased risk. But material death and complication during childbirth often do not discriminate. Every woman bearing a child faces danger.
The $3 trillion in health care each year is allowing us to keep up with other developed nations when it comes to maternal mortality rates. Incredibly, the problem is getting worse.
Indeed, many women die. There is not a malpractice case because there is nothing that could have been done. But many maternal death cases result in wrongful death malpractice lawsuits because the death was avoidable. How many? Incredibly, the CDC says that 80% of maternal deaths are preventable.
Malpractice lawyers have been preaching all of this for years. In 2023, awareness grew after a study found that the most dangerous place in the developed world to give birth in the United States. Seriously? The United States? It is true.
What Causes Maternal Mortality?
What is happening during childbirth that causes maternal death? The leading causes of maternal mortality are heart disease, pulmonary embolism, sepsis, hemorrhage, pulmonary and pulmonary embolism.
One severe hemorrhage that puts the mother’s life at risk is caused by placenta accreta. Placenta accreta increases the risk of an unmanageable obstetric hemorrhage. What happens is the invades and becomes inseparable from the uterine wall during pregnancy.
Women with a history of prior C-sections or placenta previa are thought to be at increased risk. What is scary is that there are no readily apparent symptoms of placenta accreta. The way to uncover the problem is through an ultrasound.
But this is not 100% accurate. Sometimes doctors do not diagnose placenta accreta until delivery when the placenta does not detach as it usually would from the uterine wall after the infant is delivered. (Interestingly, it was Kim Kardashian who brought a lot of recent attention to placenta accreta.)
Harm to Mother Short of Death
Missed diagnosis of medical conditions during pregnancy such as gestational diabetes, hypoglycemia, preeclampsia, anemia, and Rh-incompatibility, among others, have grave consequences for the mother and her unborn child. Other outcomes leading to maternal death include stillbirth, ectopic pregnancy, hydatidiform mole (a disease of the placenta), miscarriage, and induced abortion. Unfortunately, in most cases, symptoms are not characteristic of any one given condition which complicates the diagnosis.
Further complicating diagnosis, some diseases do not have specific biomarkers that can be measured or have numerous ones that are not necessarily indicated by standard tests due to availability or high costs associated with the tests.
Attorneys looking at these cases have a great deal to sort through to pin down the science and the medical experts as to what likely was the cause of any injury to the child or the mother.
However, despite these limitations, the scientific community continues to research complications arising during pregnancy with the end goal of providing tools to aid in the health of the mother and unborn child and further enhance prenatal care.
Most Common Malpractice Cases
There are five primary reoccurring problems/issues that may arise during a woman’s pregnancy that doctors miss, or fail to deal appropriately with, that frequently lead to medical malpractice cases:
Untreated preeclampsia is a major cause of poor maternal outcomes during pregnancy that can cause maternal death or injury. Hypertensive diseases of pregnancy” remain a leading cause of direct maternal injury and deaths. Preeclamptic conditions represent one in three cases of severe obstetric morbidity.
Is malpractice a problem? One study is telling. In 46% of maternal deaths due to pre-eclampsia reported, different management would reasonably have expected to alter the outcome.
What Damages May I Recover For My Injuries?
To recover damages in a pregnancy mismanagement/misdiagnosis case in Maryland, a woman must establish that (1) the healthcare provider was under a duty to protect the plaintiff from injury; (2) the healthcare provider breached that duty; (3) the plaintiff suffered actual injury or loss; and (4) the loss or injury proximately resulted from the breach of duty.
The medical error need not be the only cause of the harm that was done to you. Negligence will be deemed a “cause in fact” of injury when it was at least a “substantial factor” in bringing about the harm.
Maternal Death Settlements & Verdicts
Below are summaries of verdicts and reported settlements in medical malpractice cases involving maternal deaths during childbirth or pregnancy.
$22,000,000 Verdict (Illinois 2022): A Cook County jury awarded $22 million to the family of a 34-year-old mother who died in childbirth allegedly because the labor and delivery room doctor and nurse at St. Francis Hospital in Evanston, Illinois, failed to properly treat her acute high blood pressure. It was the biggest maternal death verdict in the history of Illinois.
$4,000,000 Settlement (Massachusetts 2020): This wrongful death lawsuit alleged that the defendants’ failure to timely diagnose HELLP syndrome in first-time mother with preeclampsia caused uncontrolled bleeding, cardiac arrest and death shortly after the baby was delivered by emergency cesarean section. The case was eventually settled.
$12,000,000 Settlement (Connecticut 2020): A first-time mother was admitted for labor. Despite the fact that she had preeclampsia, she was given Pitcon to induce labor. After 12 hours of labor, signs of fetal stress appeared on the fetal monitoring devices so the baby was delivered by C-section. The mother had lost 1000 ml of blood, and despite obvious signs of an obstetric hemorrhage, no immediate action was taken after the delivery. She eventually died from excessive blood loss and a wrongful death lawsuit was brought against the hospital.
$1,250,000 Verdict (North Carolina 2019): A mother in her late 30s died following a C-section delivery when the defendants allegedly failed to didanose and treat obstetric complications in a timely manner. The defendants denied negligence and claimed that the woman had died from disseminated intravascular coagulation, unrelated to any conduct by the defendant. A jury in North Carolina returned a verdict in favor of the woman’s two surviving children for $1.25 million.
$10,850,000 Verdict (California 2019): A 36-year-old pregnant woman suffered severe uterine bleeding after a C-section delivery. She was transferred to the post-anesthesia care unit and then the ICU. The lawsuit alleged that the defendants were negligent in failing to order operative intervention much sooner in response to her post-delivery bleeding.
Free Malpractice Claim Consultation
If you live in the Baltimore-Washington area and believe your pregnancy was negligently managed by your doctor causing serious injury to you or your child, call us today at 800-553-8082. Alternatively, get a free online medical malpractice consultation. We will tell you whether we think you have a case for which you could receive compensation.
More Malpractice Links
- Mother and child injury claims against midwives
- Settlement value of medical malpractice claims. Why birth injury claims are so different from other malpractice claims in terms of compensation.
- What is the value of medical negligence claims in Maryland?
- A malpractice lawsuit against Johns Hopkins for injury to the mother during a C-section
- Abortion malpractice lawsuit in Rockville, Maryland
- This is an infant wrongful death case stemming from errors before delivery
- Abortion Malpractice Lawsuit
- Unnecessary C-Section Malpractice Lawsuit