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Book Examines C-Sections as a Deterrent to Birth Injury Malpractice Suits

c section mistakesIn her new book, “Cut It Out: The C-Section Epidemic in America,” Theresa Morris examines the recent rise in surgical births. She spoke with many medical professionals to determine that courts view vaginal births as risky, instead encouraging those by C-section. Mistakes can happen either way, but physicians feel they’re less likely to be questioned if they simply perform a C-section, if a vaginal delivery may pose any type of potential risk.

Doctors are constantly in fear of being sued for birth injury malpractice, so Morris explains that an increasing number of physicians choose to perform a Cesarean section as a preventative measure, despite risks of C-section mistakes. Instead of thinking about the best interests of the mother and child, they’re often considering liability and how their actions would be perceived in front of a judge. Many physicians monitor the delivery progress of a mother and if even the slightest resemblance to a previous bad outcome appears, they’ll decide to perform a C-section.

Birth injury malpractice suits prompt increase in C-sections

Morris notes that physicians tend to jump into C-sections more quickly after being sued for malpractice. She says many physicians told her they acted in this manner because they’ve learned that doing so may prevent a lawsuit.

She uses the example of one doctor who explains the delivery process became more personal for him after he was sued for not performing a C-section. Although he’s not sure if a Cesarean delivery would’ve helped the baby or not, his threshold for when to perform the procedure was lowered.

“Probably 95, 99 percent of the patients with that same situation would have been OK, I kept thinking to myself, “OK, for that one percent, it’s such a catastrophic outcome for the child, for the parents, and then for me, not only because I care for the patient, but then going through the whole process of a suit.” . . . Nobody really wants to take that chance. And so you don’t,” said the physician.

Nurses spoke to Morris about the increase in C-section rates, agreeing that numbers are on the rise. One told her that physicians she’d worked with for a number of years that would once try a number of different methods to achieve a vaginal birth now opt for a C-section after just one or two tries.

One physician even admitted to calling his wife, who is not a doctor, from the delivery room to seek her advice. She advised him to perform C-sections to avoid a birth injury malpractice suit for not doing so.

Physicians explained to Morris that courts have defined the C-section as the solution to bad birth outcomes and liability threats.

Fewer C-section mistakes

While C-sections are not error proof, courts have deemed them the safer solution. Physicians can be blamed for countless vaginal birth errors, but C-section mistakes are typically limited to the timing of the procedure. Physicians told Morris that a judge may question whether the C-section should have been performed earlier, but not whether it should have occurred in the first place.

Courts are sending the message to physicians that more C-sections should be performed and they should be completed early on in the birthing process. Morris says surgical birth has become the answer to preventing malpractice suits, even though there is little evidence that performing a C-section can prevent most bad outcomes.