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Mother and child die in home birth, religious group held liable

When most people think about birth injuries, negligence usually comes to mind. But this negligence is often associated with hospitals and health care professionals. Most people, including some here in Florida, may not consider a birth injury case that didn't involve a health care professional as being a case of medical malpractice. But after reading the wrongful death case below, your view about birth injuries and medical malpractice could change.

The case we are referring to actually comes out of another state where a religious group was recently held liable for the death of an infant and the child's mother. According to the wrongful death lawsuit that was filed by the mother's parents, because of religious beliefs, their daughter and her husband decided to deliver their child at home rather than in a hospital. While a home birth can be done successfully, this is often because someone with medical experience is present. This was not the case in this particular delivery.

Using a birth team that consisted of the husband and several others who do not appear to have been licensed to practice medicine, the couple tried to deliver their baby without the use of modern medicine. Unfortunately, during the six days worth of labor, the child became breeched. After this point the religious group made the drastic decision to perform a surgical procedure called an episiotomy using household scissors that had not been sterilized.

Despite their efforts, the child was stillborn, having suffered from asphyxia during labor. But according to the lawsuit, the child's death was not the only one. Because the group had used unsterilized scissors and had not taken the mother to the hospital for treatment, she developed a severe infection from which she later died. According to a medical examiner, "she would have survived if she had been treated after her episiotomy."

It's because of this negligence and malpractice that the woman's parents sought compensatory and punitive damages that were recently awarded to the sum of $108.6 million. Because of similar deaths with other families, it's unknown if the religious group has or could face further litigation.

Source: Courthouse News Service, "Home-Birth Disaster Supports Massive Verdict," Jeff D. Gorman, June 18, 2014

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