Dr. Tanya Meziere and Dr. Letitia Royster are OB/GYNs practicing in the greater Atlanta, Georgia area that recently faced a claim of medical negligence involving the care they provided for Arianna Thomas over many hours of labor. Thomas’ baby was ultimately delivered by Caesarean section (C-section) at the Southern Regional Medical Center, but prior to delivery had endured insufficient levels of oxygen needed to live. The defense prevailed in a trial in Fulton County State Court where the jury deliberated for two days.
The plaintiff’s primary allegation was that the decision to proceed with a C-section should have occurred much sooner. Thomas was nearly two weeks past her due date and the doctors sought to induce labor. Measures were taken to increase contractions, but the heart rate of the baby was found to be dropping rapidly. Royster quickly ushered Thomas in for surgery but the baby had already endured too much oxygen deprivation.
Doctors regularly face a decision whether to conduct a C-section; however, they must determine that the need to do so is medically necessary. The tragic nature of this case placed tremendous pressure on defense attorneys to properly communicate with the jury. The doctors, who had a combined 42 years of experience, were in court all day and working all night during the trial.
Currently in Maryland, roughly 33% of hospital baby deliveries are done via C-section. This is the 13th highest rate among the U.S. states where the national average is approximately 31%. C-sections are now the second-leading type of surgical procedure conducted in the country. The World Health Organization standards say that merely 15% of deliveries are truly appropriate for C-section. They recognize that the procedure does carry additional health risks for the mother and baby. The process has shown to be very effective in emergencies. Risk factors that contribute to the need for C-sections among women include obesity, diabetes, and older age.
Birth Injury Case Challenges
Successfully proving medical malpractice in cases with birth injuries can be difficult. Often multiple expert witnesses are needed to support a claim and may be needed to rebut the experts retained by insurance companies. Significant financial resources are often necessary for these actions, particularly if they extend to an advanced stage of trial. For this reason, plaintiffs should choose legal counsel that is adept at such challenging cases.
Proving the Claim
To prevail in a claim and secure proper compensation requires beginning by establishing that the doctor/patient existed. The level of care provided must be proven to have not met the current medical standards. The birth injury must be proven to have been the result of this substandard care. A recent U.S. study of 1,300 hospitals reported on a pattern that certain hospitals seem to have unusually high rates of C-sections performed even in what are considered to be “lower risk” pregnancies. These findings indicate that the standards of care delivered vary widely among hospitals and that certain hospital delivery departments fail in determining what is truly medically necessary.