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Obstetrician malpractice cases often turn on expert opinions

Many medical malpractice cases come down to whether or not the doctor or hospital deviated from the standard of care required for a particular procedure. Expert witnesses can play a particularly important role in cases where a mother or newborn is injured or killed during the birth.

In many high risks births or when an unexpected complication arises, a quick series of decisions and procedures may be employed. Understanding some of the less common techniques, or how a variety of diverse techniques should or should not be used together generally requires more than just a regular doctor or expert. It requires one who specializes in these types of matters, so that he or she can tell the family's story in a clear and understandable way which is based in a comprehensive understanding of all the technical aspects of the procedures involved.

A recent case examined the level of care delivered during a birthing procedure. The child now suffers permanent nerve damage denying her the use of one of her arms.

In this case the family contends that because a nurse provided an inappropriate prescription dosage, the labor proceeded too quickly. The baby's shoulders were unable to pass through the birth canal. At this point the doctor used a vacuum procedure which the family contends resulted in the nerve injury. The vacuum technique was not successful and the doctor had to perform an extremely rare procedure known as the Zavanelli Maneuver. This involves pushing the fetal head back inside the birth canal and then delivering via C-section.

The jury decided that one set of experts was more credible in their understanding and explanation of the procedure involved. That team included the chair of the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the Ohio State University Medical center. This doctor who literally wrote the (text) book on this subject proved to be an important factor in the jury's decision.

Source: News and Sentinel "Jury clears local doctors, hospital in suit" March 24, 2011

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