Failure to Diagnose and Birth Injuries

When should a pregnant woman start to get medical care? Almost as soon as she discovers that she is expecting. The reasons for this lengthy period of care are fairly simple: they ensure the baby develops without problems and that the mother is healthy, too. During the weeks and months of pregnancy, a woman receives regular checkups, gets different kinds of imaging done, and receives any care required to keep herself and her baby safe.

During this period of time, the medical team is also looking for any signs that delivery could be a problem or a threat to mother or baby. Should they fail to detect problems, and a birth injury or death to the infant or mother occurs, this is seen as a failure to diagnose.

Modern Medicine and Failure to Diagnose

We live in an age of advanced medicine, and there are very few issues that should cause our doctors to feel shocked or surprised. This is particularly true with pregnancy and childbirth. There are many kinds of blood tests and imaging options that would make it easier than ever for physicians to detect even some of the most hidden conditions or problems.

Sadly, human error still occurs and leads to health problems and serious medical mistakes. And while there are many examples of these failures to diagnose leading only to minor glitches, there are also examples of them leading to major problems.

However, a failure to diagnose is never written off as a simple human error. A doctor and medical team have jobs, and one part of their job is to detect problems before they become problems. This is particularly true of the work of a team tasked with the care of pregnant women and those delivering their babies.

Failure to diagnose, then, becomes a formal charge if something goes wrong and the health or life of the baby is put at risk. In fact, a failure to diagnose something while the mother is pregnant, delivering, and after delivery is seen as medical malpractice.

How Can It Happen?

With so much science on their side, how can a physician or medical team fail to diagnose in a timely manner? Interestingly enough, it can be something minor and easy to overlook, such as a maternal infection, but it can also go as far as a physician failing to detect fetal distress or diagnose a breech position.

The most common ways medical experts fail to diagnose include:

  • They do not detect or monitor infection, gestational diabetes, or maternal preeclampsia.
  • They do not do an in-depth exam of the mother’s medical history.
  • They fail to do screenings and tests.
  • They do not detect fetal distress or if a baby is too large or wrongly positioned.
  • They do not detect jaundice or other fetal health concerns.

Because such failures lead to birth injuries or even to infant death, and because most of the results of the failure to diagnose are conditions that could have been prevented, it is often a case of malpractice.

Just consider that a baby who suffers lack of oxygen because of failure to diagnose could sustain nerve or brain damage, cerebral palsy, and permanent disability. The range of health issues that can occur with a failure to diagnose is expansive, and parents must consult with legal counsel. Even if the outcome of the failure to diagnose does not manifest in the child for a few years (such as in developmental delays), the facts remain the same. If something was avoidable, but the medical experts failed to diagnose, there is accountability on their part.


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