Some birth injuries are the result of medical negligence. Doctors fail to properly monitor the condition of a mother and her unborn child with tragic results. Other times, intentional acts on the part of medical workers might cause severe birth injuries. For example, an obstetrician attending a live birth might recommend a course of treatment that is dangerous for the mother or her unborn child. Certain interventions can be dangerous when improperly administered or when administered to someone with specific contraindications.
Other interventions can be potentially dangerous for any pregnant woman and should, therefore, never play a role in the medical support a woman in labor receives. For example, one off-label prescribing habit in some maternity wards could constitute medical malpractice because of an associated known risk of death and catastrophic birth injuries.
How some doctors put laboring women at risk
Cytotec or misoprostol is a drug that doctors can safely recommend to individuals with ulcers. However, those practicing obstetrics have historically sometimes also recommended Cytotec to assist with cervical effacement and dilation. Essentially, doctors sometimes decide to administer this drug to a woman in labor in hopes of speeding up the process. Typically, off-label prescribing is not automatically medical malpractice. However, in this case, it might be.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received enough reports of catastrophic outcomes that it labels the drug with an explicit warning about the possibility of uterine rupture, spontaneous abortion and death. The drug carries a warning that it is not for administration in any pregnant woman.
Despite this warning and the easily accessible information about tragic outcomes when doctors use this drug instead of other, much safer interventions, some obstetricians still choose to use Cytotec during labor and delivery. In some cases, the consequences could include permanent birth injuries to the child. The mother could potentially become infertile if she experiences uterine rupture. It is also possible for the mother, the unborn baby or both to die because a doctor gave a woman this drug during labor.
Birth injuries are tragic even when they are natural and unpredictable occurrences. When they are the consequence of a doctor believing they know better than the FDA, families have every reason to want to pursue justice afterward. Filing a medical malpractice claim is one of the best options for holding a doctor accountable for a preventable, catastrophic birth injury.