Doctors tending to expectant mothers have a duty to advise them of treatment risks and alternatives. If they do not, and a mother makes an uninformed decision during delivery, it can result in a tragic birth injury that causes permanent impairment. If a mother is adequately advised of the potential harm a course of care poses but chooses to proceed with that plan regardless, though, the mother may be denied damages. This was demonstrated in a recent Maryland ruling in which an appellate court reversed a jury’s award in a birth injury case, which was the largest medical malpractice award in the United States to date. If your child sustained harm at birth, it is advisable to meet with an experienced Maryland birth injury attorney about your rights.
The Plaintiff’s Care
It is reported that the plaintiff mother, who was 16-years-old and 25 weeks pregnant, presented to the defendant hospital with severe eclampsia and other complications. She met with a team of doctors who advised her of treatment options and their potential risks. Specifically, they told her she could terminate her pregnancy, undergo cesarean delivery, or an induction for a vaginal delivery. She advised the doctors that she did not want to undergo a cesarean delivery to save the baby, even if there were signs of distress, but was otherwise unsure of how to proceed. She ultimately chose to undergo induction.
It is alleged that the treating physicians informed the plaintiff on numerous occasions that cesarean delivery would provide her child with the best chance of a positive outcome, but she declined to change her mind regarding delivery and signed an informed consent form stating she declined cesarean section. Her child was born and had to be resuscitated after birth and suffers severe physical and mental disabilities. The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the defendant asserting medical negligence and informed consent claims. A jury found in favor of the plaintiff, granting her in excess of $200 million in damages, and the defendant appealed.
Informed Consent Claims in Maryland
On appeal, the court vacated the jury’s verdict. The court explained that the doctrine of informed consent arises out of the goal to protect patient autonomy. In other words, its purpose is to uphold a person’s right to choose what to do with his or her own body and when to do it. Thus, the doctrine requires that, prior to administering treatment to a patient, a physician explain the treatment and warn the patient of any significant risks or dangers associated with the treatment so that the patient can make an informed and intelligent choice as to how to proceed.
In order for a patient’s consent to be informed, the explanation of the risks must be reasonable and fair, which means the doctor must disclose what a reasonable person would want to know. In the subject case, the court found that the plaintiff was adequately informed of the material risks of her treatment options before choosing to decline a cesarean. As such, the appellate court reversed the judgment of the trial court.
Speak to an Experienced Maryland Birth Injury Attorney
Mistakes during the delivery process can cause devastating harm that requires lifelong care. If your child suffered a birth injury, you may be able to pursue claims against your treatment provider, and it is prudent to speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. The experienced Maryland birth attorneys of Arfaa Law Group are mindful of the anguish families suffer due to unnecessary birth injuries, and if you hire us, we will fight tirelessly to help you and your child seek a just outcome. You can reach us through our form online or at (410) 889-1850 to schedule a meeting.