The birth of a child is supposed to be one of the most wonderful moments in a family’s history. However, it can quickly turn into a nightmare if proper care is not exercised. If the unthinkable happens, and mother or baby loses their life, understanding the family’s rights can help the survivors obtain some measure of compensation for this horrible loss.
The United States, despite its civilized status, has an alarmingly high death rate for mothers during childbirth. The rate is actually increasing, despite advances in science and neonatal care; according to the National Institute of Health, the rate in 1982 was 7.5 deaths per 100,000 births; in 2005, which is the most recent data available, it was 15.1 per 100,000. For African American women, the rate is even higher – 36.5 deaths per 100,000 births as of 2008. This is patently unacceptable. There is no indication that women of color suffer diseases like preeclampsia any more commonly than white women, yet they die significantly more often.
The even more unacceptable fact is that most of these deaths are likely preventable. American data as to causes of death is unreliable in the extreme, often not following up as to a possible cause of death if another event may have intervened. For example, if someone passes away at home after a cesarean section, the death may not be attributed to any pregnancy-related cause. Also, some of these deaths are attributable to malpractice, and are simply never reported because no case is brought.
Very often, when a woman dies in childbirth, her surviving family decides to bring suit against the doctor or hospital, alleging medical errors and/or wrongful death. Wrongful death occurs when someone loses their life due to the wanton, negligent or reckless acts of another, while medical malpractice is a cause of action brought when a health professional fails to treat a patient according to the prevailing standard of care.
The causes of maternal death in childbirth tend to mirror those worldwide – hemorrhaging (both antepartum and postpartum), preeclampsia and assorted disorders, and heart trouble. More specifically, placenta previa is the most common type of hemorrhaging that turns fatal for mothers. It is defined as an instance when the placenta abnormally implants and shifts so that it wholly or partially covers the opening in the mother’s cervix; it can lead to severe bleeding and may require a cesarean section to ensure safe delivery. It is important to note that the rate of all of these problems does increase in women of color, proportionately to the rise in overall maternal deaths, which suggests that the quality of care they receive may be subpar in some respects. And all of the problems listed previously can, in certain situations, be attributable to medical negligence.
If you or a loved one has suffered a loss of this nature, the attorneys at Meinhart, Smith & Manning, PLLC can help. We have years of experience in matters of wrongful death and personal injury, and we will put it to work for you. Contact our Louisville office today for a free consultation.