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Despite Improvements, Birth Injury Rate Unacceptable

by on March 30, 2015

Over the past 15 years, some hospitals have made an effort to reduce the risk of birth injuries. While these safety initiatives may help families at hospitals who implement them, they are not uniformly adopted and far too many families suffer the tragic consequences of unavoidable medical errors. At Wattel & York, our Phoenix birth injury lawyers know all too well how the consequences of preventable medical mistakes can lead to a lifetime of hardship for families. Reduction of the birth injury rate is certainly a laudable goal, but it’s cold comfort for the children who have suffered birth injuries due to medical malpractice.

The legal team at Wattel & York has made it our life’s work to empower victims of medical malpractice by providing comprehensive counsel regarding legal options and recourse.

“Otherwise avoidable tragic events are likely continuing…”

Public Citizen, a national nonprofit watchdog organization that is dedicated to promoting consumer rights, recently released a new report on trends in birth injury rates throughout the U.S. Among its findings, the report noted that not only is the U.S. one of only a few countries worldwide with a rising maternal mortality rate, America has an infant mortality rate that is nearly double that of France, Italy, and Spain. Out of the four million babies born each year in the U.S., about 25,000 die before their first birthday.

Previous reports from various independent bodies have focused on the significant roles of inconsistent quality of care and inconsistent “obstetric care practice patterns across hospitals.” These studies spurred the implementation of improved obstetrical care systems in many U.S. hospitals over the past 15 years. These practices include encouraging employees to verbalize concerns about unsafe situations, abiding by “bundles” of essential practices that are implemented with high-risk situations, and reducing medically unnecessary C-section deliveries.

Public Citizen polled four major healthcare organizations to evaluate the success of these initiatives, including Hospital Corporation of America (HCA), which runs the single largest obstetrical system in the U.S. All of these healthcare systems reported promising reductions in birth injury rates.

Unfortunately, these improvements are not consistent across all hospitals in the U.S., given that they are not mandatory and not all hospitals have implemented these new systems. According to Public Citizen, “indications that methods with demonstrated records of success have not been comprehensively implemented suggest that otherwise avoidable tragic events are likely continuing to occur at non-adopting hospitals.”

In support of this suggestion, the Public Citizen report notes that obstetric outcomes vary widely among hospitals in the U.S., even after factoring in such considerations as demographics and other issues that are beyond the power of healthcare providers’ ability to control. The frequency of C-section deliveries is one rate with surprisingly disparate outcomes. In 2009, C-section rates for low-risk pregnancies “varied fifteenfold from provider to provider.”

Some healthcare experts have suggested that there is a dearth of adequate guidance for acceptable practices for obstetricians to turn to, which can lend itself to unfavorable outcomes for mother and child. As one healthcare expert told Public Citizen, “The obstetrics profession has traditionally favored ‘purposefully ambiguous guidelines to assist in legal defenses of medical malpractice cases in which judgment played a key role.'”

In part, birth injury rates in Arizona and throughout the country may be so variable due to the diverse capacities of healthcare systems. Rural areas in particular may have difficulty adopting uniform safety practices because of inadequate resources. To combat this and save children from suffering lifelong disabilities due to medical errors, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has advocated the importance of improving referral networks, which would enable more patients to gain access to the resources they need for favorable outcomes.

Other experts who lent their opinions to the Public Citizen report have noted that not all quality control measures require extensive resources. In fact, some have charged that changing hospital culture toward safety improvements could do much to protect expectant mothers and infants. In the meantime, families who have been victimized by preventable medical errors may still turn to birth injury lawyers for legal options.

Phoenix birth injury lawyers fight for justice for your family

Victims of medical malpractice can stand up to injustice with the help of the legal team at Wattel & York. We’ll put our extensive resources to work for your family to demand that those responsible for your child’s birth injuries are held accountable for their negligence. Families throughout Arizona, including those in Yuma, Tucson, Glendale, Chandler and Phoenix can contact our medical malpractice lawyers at 1-877-225-5562 to schedule a free, confidential case review.

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