Although quality of medical care and knowledge has grown exponentially over the years, no amount of safe practise completely eliminates the risk of injury. When it comes to birth injuries, there is all the more at stake, as both mother and infant are at risk. Experts estimate that anywhere from 25% to 40% of mothers experience some form of injury resulting from childbirth, but that in many cases, they go undetected, and considered by women to be normal after effects of giving birth. Of course, birth injuries to either mother or baby can be life-altering, but the matter remains largely unaddressed until people find themselves in such a situation.
Injuries to Mother
Childbirth is a very traumatic experience for the body, and there are many risk factors attached. Birthing injuries sustained by mothers include:
- Suturing errors – improper stitching of tears and episiotomies
- Episiotomy errors
- Third- and fourth-degree perineal tears
- Injuries to other organs during Caesarean section delivery
- Anaesthetic errors
- Retained instruments
- Misdiagnosed Preeclampsia
Injuries to Infant
When an infant sustains injuries during birth, it often leads to lifelong issues that require constant care. Although the birth process is safer for both mothers and babies than it has ever been before, there are significant risks attached if something goes wrong, such as:
- Brain injury
- Cerebral Palsy
- Injuries to baby during delivery – cuts and other marks
- Fractures to baby during delivery
- Hip dysplasia
The Healthcare Landscape
The UK is fortunate to have one of the world’s best health services, in which the medical professionals dedicate their lives to the health and wellbeing of others. However, it is no secret that the NHS has been facing increasing pressures in recent years, to the point at which we are now seeing a deficit of approximately 42,000 nurses and midwives, and only one in three paramedic vacancies are filled. The combination of constantly-falling healthcare budgets issued by the Government, poor pay and lack of raises, and highly pressurised working environments is causing our health services to falter, leaving those remaining to struggle to bridge the huge gaps. This is having a knock-on effect on the quality of care the NHS is capable of delivering, which has unfortunately led to a rise in complications and injuries. Of course, these complications have major implications on the lives of the patients and their families, and should not be tolerated, and we are seeing a surge of medical negligence claims being lodged against NHS hospitals.
The Cost of Birth Injuries
Despite the unfortunate prevalence of birth injuries and the devastating effects they have on babies, their parents and their families, little attention is drawn to the actual cost of living with the injuries, which often require constant and lifelong care and treatment. Estimates have been made recently as to the expenses incurred by living with birthing injuries, and note that these amounts do not even take into account out-of-pocket costs such as lost wages or trips to hospital. The lifetime costs of a child suffering from Cerebral Palsy as a result of birth injuries is estimated to be around £653,000, while those suffering brain damage or other intellectual disability resulting from birth injury is in excess of £709,000. Meanwhile, the costs associated with the care of a child with visual impairment is around £426,000, and for hearing impairments £272,000.
The long-term aftermath of birth injuries is very serious, and in order to get quality treatment and give those affected as high a quality of life as possible, a huge amount of money has to be spent, which the average family does not have at their disposal. Of course, there is some assistance available in the form of charitable organisations who raise funds for and support those affected by birth injuries, including MIND, Sparks and the Birth Trauma Association, but their help alone is simply not enough to fund the treatment, equipment and assistance required to give quality of life to a patient affected by birth injuries.
It is for this reason, among others, that increasing numbers of people choose to seek legal advice when they find themselves the victims of medical negligence.
Instances of birth injury are often unprecedented and quite unexpected, making them all the more traumatic for those affected. As soon as is possible, people impacted by birth injury should seek legal advice from a reputable professional who specialises in birth injury cases. They will be able to offer not only a compassionate and understanding service that works in the best interest of the victims, but have the professional knowledge and drive to secure any means of restitution available.
All medical documentation, and other evidence pertaining to the birth and treatment that resulted in the injury, should be collected and passed on to the lawyer or solicitor, who can examine the circumstances of the case, and make a professional decision about where the fault lies, and what sort of compensation the victim can expect to receive following the case being taken to court. At this point, it can also be beneficial to a case for independent medical advice to be sought in relation to the victim’s future expenses and needs relating to their injury.
The services of a legal expert can help to secure those affected by birth injuries a monetary settlement from the party responsible for the injury, to help make their subsequent life as comfortable as possible, and ensure they have all the services, support and treatment that they require.
Compensation can be awarded for a number of injuries and elements, and the amount awarded to victims will depend on the severity of the injuries incurred and the negligence that caused them. Injuries including brain damage, cerebral palsy, scars and pain and suffering will be considered for compensation, as will cases of stillbirth and wrongful death. Awards can also be made for punitive damages and funeral costs if applicable. A legal expert will be able to look at the circumstances of a case and advise the victims from there on what they can expect to be awarded and how to file a claim for birth injury compensation.