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North Adams Medical Malpractice Law Blog

Pros and cons of operative vaginal delivery

Massachusetts mothers who are planning to have a natural birth should be aware of the options that are available if assistance is needed. Forceps and vacuum extraction are two of the most common tools obstetricians may use to expedite vaginal delivery, and there are risks associated with both.

Contemporary OB/GYN notes that there are several reasons doctors may choose to turn to operative vaginal delivery. For instance, existing medical factors, such as cardiovascular disease, may make unassisted delivery infeasible. Furthermore, if pushing during the second stage of labor is not effective or the mother is exhausted, assistance may become necessary.

What are the odds of ineffective treatment?

When you visit your doctor in Massachusetts, you have certain expectations that your treatment will be effective, current and supported by the latest research. A growing body of literature, however, suggests that this may not be the case.

A recent report in The Atlantic suggests that it is not unlikely that the treatment your doctor recommends may be either useless or downright dangerous. For instance, the popularity of the practice of implanting stents to treat narrowed arteries and relieve chest pain does not correlate with the procedure’s success in the research. Recent studies have shown that for stable patients, stents may not be beneficial when compared with noninvasive treatments.

Recovering from brain injuries: A slow and expensive process

Slow recovery and damage to cognitive and physical function are hallmarks of a traumatic brain injury. Massachusetts patients recovering from TBIs also may face additional stress because of the medical expenses incurred as a result of the injury as well as a loss of income during and even after the healing period.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that in 30 percent of deaths from injury, TBIs play a role, making such brain injuries a significant contributor not only to hospitalization and disability but also to deaths in the United States. The most recent numbers suggest that doctors around the nation see more than 2.8 million deaths, emergency room visits and other hospitalizations related to serious brain injuries.

Difficulties diagnosing fetal distress

Fetal distress is a powerful warning sign that all is not well in a pregnancy or during labor, and Massachusetts health care providers must be able to recognize the warning signs and respond rapidly to protect the health of you and your baby. However, there remains a great deal of confusion surrounding the concept of fetal distress in the medical field today, and the potential for mistakes is high. We at Donovan O’Connor and Dodig, LLP, understand how state and federal laws protect expecting mothers from physician errors.

According to the American Pregnancy Association, the terms “birth asphyxia” and “fetal distress” are often used synonymously. Indeed, the confusion was significant enough to cause the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists to recommend a shift in the lexicon to provide more specificity for both conditions.

Electronic health records linked to medical errors

Electronics are intended to make life easier, but the transition to electronic health records has not been smooth for many health care facilities in Massachusetts and around the United States. Indeed, recent reports indicate that in some cases, the use of electronic records has increased the incidence of doctor errors.

A federal program launched in 2009 incentivized the transition to electronic health records with the aim to reduce errors according to Modern Healthcare. Certainly, automated systems come with plenty of benefits, from making it easy for physicians to access patients records to eliminating the problem of hard-to-read handwriting. However, human error tends to have more severe consequences in the emergency room setting given the fast pace and high stakes, and the potential for error only increases if there are design flaws in the electronic system.

Failure to Diagnose

Chest pain is perhaps the most recognizable symptom of a heart attack, but sometimes it is minimal or not present at all. A patient suffering from one of these silent attacks may disregard other symptoms or not notice them. All heart attacks, diagnosed or undiagnosed, pose a serious threat, so it is crucial that Massachusetts physicians be aware of the risk of silent heart attacks.

Silent heart attacks are not uncommon in the United States, and a report by CBS News based on a recent study suggests that pain tolerance may be a relevant factor in diagnosis of these attacks. Participants in this study underwent several tests, including a test for sensitivity to pain that involves plunging one’s hand into cold water for as long as is tolerable (with a maximum time limit of two minutes). Participants also received electrocardiograms to identify previous heart attacks, either diagnosed or undiagnosed.

Preventing brain injuries in children

Brain injuries among children can have devastating lifelong consequences, especially if they go undetected and untreated. Fortunately, there are steps Massachusetts parents can take to minimize the likelihood of childhood brain injuries.

The Brain Injury Association of America reports that traumatic brain injury (TBI) is particularly prevalent among children ages zero to four and teenagers over the age of 15. In these age groups, TBIs are the primary causes of death and disability. Brain injuries among children and adolescents are generally more severe than similar injuries among adults simply because young brains are still developing. Recent research has indicated the inaccuracy of the old notion that children can recover from TBIs more easily than can adults; instead, the effects of TBIs in children are often delayed and may only appear as the child ages.

What constitutes informed consent?

As a patient, you have a legal right to decide what is done with your body, as explained by Temple Health. This means that before your Massachusetts physician implements a treatment plan, he or she must obtain informed consent.

In general, before you provide consent for any procedure, your physician should present certain information, such as the diagnosis and the nature of the recommended treatment. You also need to know the following:

  • The benefits and risks of the proposed treatment
  • The consequences of not pursuing treatment
  • The possible alternative methods of treatment
  • The pros and cons of these alternatives

Risk factors for uterine rupture

A straightforward pregnancy is every Massachusetts mother’s hope, but complications such as uterine ruptures can arise quickly, be difficult to diagnose and have catastrophic consequences. Although uterine ruptures are rare, physicians must respond rapidly when one does occur to minimize the possibility of severe injury or death for both mother and child.

A uterine rupture occurs when pressure during labor tears the uterus, according to Healthline. The biggest resulting threat to the mother is the potential for hemorrhage, although in a hospital setting, fatal blood loss is unlikely. The risk to the baby is much greater because a rupture may lead to oxygen deprivation. Uterine rupture is fatal to the child in approximately six percent of cases, and the baby should be delivered within 40 minutes of the rupture.

What malpractice claim guidelines exist for pregnancy injuries?

If you are an expecting mother in Massachusetts, you know that when a preventable injury occurs as a result of a medical error, it has consequences not only for your well-being, but also for the health and safety of your child. After such an incident, you may wish to seek recompense; however, it is important to pursue action within the guidelines of the state’s legal code.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, you must file a medical malpractice claim within three years of the injury. In more complicated cases, such as an injury of which you were not—and could not reasonably expect to be—aware until after the fact, you have up to seven years to file a claim. In cases involving a foreign object left in the body, the timeline is indefinite. In such a scenario, you may pursue legal action more than seven years after the time of initial injury.

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