Medical Center Settles Birth Injury Lawsuit After Claims Of Water Birth Brain Damage
A birthing center in Portland Oregon has just settled a $36 million birth injury lawsuit with a family who claimed the Legacy Emanuel Medical Center botched the “water birth” of their son in 2011. The birth injury lawsuit was filed in 2014 and claimed that the boy suffered permanent brain damage and cerebral palsy as a result of his water birth.
According to the birth injury lawsuit the Legacy Emanuel Medical Center allowed the boy to stay too long underwater, which resulted in permanent brain damage from lack of oxygen. The suit states that the boy was eventually diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The medical malpractice lawsuit states that the birthing center failed to deliver the baby in time to prevent brain damage, did not resuscitate the boy in time to prevent brain damage, did not choose to deliver the baby by C-section when it became medically necessary for a healthy delivery, failed to inform the family of the potential complications from a water birth, and did not train the nurses and midwives to respond properly in an emergency. The family sought $10 million in non-economic damages and $25.9 million in economic damages. The family filed the lawsuit with the Multnomah County Circuit Court in 2014. [bizjournals.com/portland/blog/health-care-inc/2016/01/legacy-settles-water-births-lawsuit-with-portland.html, January 2016]
“This boy will need a great deal of care the rest of his life,” the family’s attorney told The Portland Business Journal. “His parents have had their lives greatly altered.” According to the lawsuit, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated in 2004 that water births are unsafe. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found insufficient evidence that proved that water births are a safe or effective method of delivery for infants.
NPR reports that studies on the safety of water births have provided mixed results. The studies suggest that the biggest risk of water births is infection and the possibility of drowning or near-drowning if the infant takes its first breath while still underwater. Studies suggest that when women who are at high-risk for complications are not allowed to give birth in the tub and midwives and attending doctors watch for infection risks and signs of danger then giving birth in the water does not carry any additional risk to giving birth in a bed. Still, some medical facilities refuse to allow water births for potential safety risks and liability. The Legacy lawsuit suggests that these facilities may be wise to say no to water births. [npr.org/sections/health-shots/2014/03/21/292381478/dont-birth-that-baby-in-a-tub-doctors-say-but-midwives-disagree, January 2016]
The Legacy Emanuel Medical Center agreed to settle the lawsuit in January 2016. A spokesperson for the Legacy Medical Center stated that Legacy will continue to offer water births and has not changed any policies or practices surrounding the way they use water birth equipment. The company states that water births allow families “to enjoy a serene, home-like experience with the added peace of mind that skilled physicians and board-certified nurse midwives are just a few steps away.” The case was closed with an settlement amount that was unannounced to the press.