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Death of baby girl pushes Oregon midwifery reform effort


Avoidable birth injuries are often the most heartbreaking of medical malpractice cases. Injuries such as broken bones may heal over time, but others can cause serious injury or even death. Such was the tragic experience of one Oregon mother, whose infant girl died due to the medical mistakes of a midwife.

The baby girl was born after 60 hours of labor in a home birth. She passed away four days later after the midwife made a series of medical mistakes. After going through her notes, it was brought to light that the baby's heart stopped shortly after birth. The mother was never notified of this, and says she would have immediately taken her daughter to a hospital for medical care. Numerous other warning signs were present, including the infant's refusal to nurse.

The mother finally took her to a pediatrician who advised her to go to the emergency room. Once at the hospital, a code blue was called and her daughter passed away from multiple organ failure caused by a septic infection.

Earlier this year, the midwife who oversaw the birth pleaded guilty to criminal charges of reckless endangerment. According to the prosecuting Coos County district attorney, she may in fact be the first midwife to be charged with a crime in the state of Oregon.

This case and another that resulted in the death of an infant in 2011 are behind the push to change the licensing requirements for midwifes in Oregon. A bill recently unanimously passed the Oregon House of Representatives. It calls for mandatory licensing and other midwifery requirements. It's hoped the bill will help prevent future avoidable deaths such as the one in this case.

The pain associated with the wrongful death of an infant can be unbearable. Once the initial shock has subsided, it is important for victims to know that they have legal rights and may be able to file a medical malpractice or wrongful death claim.

Source: Oregon Live, "Baby's death in Coos County helps lead to review of Oregon midwife regulations," Lori Tobias, July 5, 2013

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