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Can you sue a midwife for malpractice over a birth injury?

In this modern age, is a mother-to-be taking unnecessary risks by using a midwife when she could be attended to by a doctor instead?

If the baby or the mother suffers a birth-related injury due to complications that the midwife can't handle or mishandles, is that just the risk the mother took? Or, is the midwife liable for her mistakes?

Midwives are becoming increasingly popular in the United States -- as of 2014 (the last year for which full statistics are available), midwives were present during more than eight percent of all births in this country. The overwhelming majority of midwifes attending births in 2014 were highly-trained professionals -- known as either certified nurse-midwives or certified midwives.

Many of them actually perform their jobs in hospitals, just like obstetricians do. Over 94 percent of midwife-assisted births actually occur in hospitals. Around 3 percent occur in "birthing centers" that are well-equipped for a variety of medical situations, while just under 3 percent of midwife-assisted births take place in a patient's home.

If you plan on using a midwife, it's best to use a licensed professional for a number of reasons. Aside from the assurance that the midwife has achieved the minimum necessary training in her trade to obtain that license, she's also generally held to a specific standard of care. If she violates that standard of care in some way and causes an injury to either the child or mother, she can be held liable for negligence.

You should also find out whether or not the midwife you use carries malpractice insurance. If she works with a facility or in a doctor's practice, the odds are good that she does -- but inquire just the same. If she works alone, you need to be more inquisitive and make certain that she does carry insurance. While you naturally hope for the best, it's important to be prepared for the worst. If a mistake happens, the mother or baby may need expensive medical care for some time after the birth.

Source: American College of Nurse-Midwives, "CNM/CM-attended Birth Statistics," accessed Aug. 18, 2017

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