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Report Questions Quality of Obstetric Care in America

baby incubatorThe national nonprofit organization Public Citizen recently issued a lengthy report regarding the lack of standardized practices adopted by obstetrics practitioners across the nation, which is a contributing factor to adverse outcomes and “avoidable tragic events” in delivery rooms each year. The public watchdog group says that while proven safety initiatives do exist to minimize preventable birth traumas or risk of maternal complications, these are not consistently followed by health care providers.

The sobering truth is that childbirth outcomes in the United States are dismal compared to other developed countries. According to the CIA World Factbook, the infant mortality rate in the U.S. is nearly double that of Spain, Italy and France and almost three times the rate of Japan. And while other countries are making great strides to reduce incidence of childbirth-related injuries, the U.S. actually has a growing maternal mortality rate, in addition to a significantly higher rate of C-section deliveries.

Quality of obstetric care in America is questioned

Over the past 15 years, obstetricians and other medical professionals have developed standardized practices to help reduce adverse outcomes during childbirth. Each falls into three broad categories:

  • Enhanced training in communications between health care professionals, so they learn to speak out when a situation is perceived as unsafe. Communication problems have been blamed in at least 65 percent of catastrophic childbirth events, according to research by the Joint Commission.
  • Reducing the number of unnecessary C-section deliveries. Several studies have found that Cesarean deliveries are sometimes ordered for convenience or to boost the doctor’s compensation.
  • Implementing “bundles” — crucial practices that must be used when inducing labor or in other high risk situations.

The report describes initiatives undertaken by at least four health care organizations to help improve childbirth safety.

After implementation New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center witnessed the following outcomes:

  • Fetal brain damage from HIE was 98 percent lower than the national average
  • “Sentinel events,” e.physical or psychological injuries  and/or deaths were cut down to zero during the final two years
  • Medical malpractice lawsuits filed against obstetricians went down 99 percent

Rising C-section rates remain a concern

The Public Citizen report doesn’t attribute all adverse outcomes to subpar medical care in the delivery room, but does spotlight the growing reliance on scheduled C-sections here in the U.S. as a partial factor.

“Overwhelming evidence indicates that babies born by cesarean delivery experience significantly greater risk of health complications compared to babies born vaginally.” Such complications include considerably higher rates of respiratory complications, severe breathing problems (respiratory distress syndrome), retained fluid with moderate breathing, infections, and prolonged neonatal intensive care unit length of stay, states the report.

The report spells out how standardized safety practices can dramatically reduce incidence of birth injuries and other tragic outcomes, but several experts interviewed by Public Citizen say they have yet to be comprehensively implemented by obstetric units in the U.S.

Birth injury lawyers in Maine

The law firm of Hardy, Wolf & Downing is all too familiar with the consequences of medical malpractice in the delivery room and has taken on dozens of complex cases alleging negligence on the part of health care providers. Families should never have to suffer the ramifications of avoidable medical errors, and need to know that the law is on their side.

When you enlist the services of a Maine birth injury lawyer at our firm, you’re retaining a powerful advocate who works with seasoned researchers, in-house medical experts and case investigators. Whether your case goes before a jury or settlement negotiations take place, we promise to fight for maximum compensation on your behalf.

To learn more about your legal options or to arrange a free case review, please call 1-800-INJURED.

  1. Citizen.org, Safety Initiatives Have Dramatically Reduced Harms During Childbirth But Are Unevenly Implemented http://www.citizen.org/documents/obstetrics-healthcare-safety-report.pdf
  2. ConsumerReports.org, The risks of C-sections: What hospitals don't want you to know The procedures drive up costs and increase risks for mothers and babies, a Consumer Reports' investigation finds http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/2014/05/what-hospitals-do-not-want-you-to-know-about-c-sections/index.htm