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The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. Your trusted legal advisors since 1976

The Link Between Birth Aids and Serious Injury


For many practitioners, shoulder dystocia is a nightmare condition. Many babies are too large to drift down the mother’s birth canal. Alternatively, the baby might be in the wrong position in utero. In either case, the baby could become lodged in the birth canal. At that point, the umbilical cord could cut off the baby’s oxygen supply. The resulting hypoxia could cause permanent brain damage, usually cerebral palsy, in less than five minutes.

The ticking clock means the pressure is on. Like the rest of us, many doctors make poor decisions under pressure. A few of those poor decisions are discussed below.

Cerebral palsy is not degenerative, so the child’s condition will never worsen. However, brain damage is also permanent, so the child’s condition will never significantly improve. As a result, a Tampa birth injury lawyer might be able to obtain significant compensation. In addition to compensatory damages for economic and noneconomic losses, substantial punitive damages might be available as well in extreme fact patterns. A damages cap might also apply in some situations.

Mechanical Birth Assistance

Typically, shoulder dystocia red flags appear during prenatal visits. For example, many babies are LGA (Large for Gestational Age). Very few babies get smaller in their mothers’ wombs. As a result, shoulder dystocia is a serious risk. But many doctors are overconfident, so they do not take appropriate steps at that time. Instead, they rely on dangerous birth aids, such as:

  • Episiotomy: Once upon a time, doctors routinely cut the mother’s perineum (area between the anus and genitals) to widen the birth canal immediately before delivery. But doctors now know these incisions often cause uncontrollable bleeding. Unfortunately, when the pressure is on, many doctors fall back on this technique. That’s especially true if the baby is lodged high in the mother’s birth canal.
  • Vacuum Extractor: If the baby is stuck lower, many doctors attach a cap to the baby’s head. That cap is attached to a surgical vacuum. Then, the doctor literally tried to suck the baby out of the womb. Vacuum extractors often cause permanent external and internal head injuries.
  • Forceps: Other doctors use this tool, which is essentially a pair of surgical salad tongs, to pull the baby out of the mother. Tiny infants are so fragile that any excessive force could cause a permanent nerve injury in the brachial plexus area. Forceps, which have not changed much since they were introduced in the 1700s, frequently cause head injuries as well.

Doctors have a fiduciary duty toward their patients. That’s the highest level of legal responsibility under Florida law. Therefore, the use of dangerous birth aids is clearly negligent.

Third Party Liability

The negligent doctor is usually not individually financially responsible for damages. Instead, the clinic, professional association, or other organization which employs the doctor is usually liable for damages. The respondeat superior doctrine applies if the negligent actor was:

  • An employee
  • Working within the course and scope of employment.

Florida law defines these key terms in broad, victim-friendly ways. Typically, any affiliation with a hospital is sufficient to satisfy the employee requirement. And, the doctor need not have been a pediatrician. The law holds all doctors to the same standard of care. 

Count On Dedicated Lawyers

A few moments of physician neglect can cause a lifetime of pain and suffering. For a free consultation with an experienced Tampa birth injury lawyer, contact The Matassini Law Firm. We routinely handle matters in Hillsborough County and nearby jurisdictions.

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