January 11, 2012

A Concord, New Hampshire midwife, who had voluntarily given up her New Hampshire state license in June, 2010, settled a medical malpractice case filed against her that alleged that her medical negligence caused a newborn to suffer permanent and severe brain injuries that resulted in cerebral palsy.

The medical malpractice claim alleged that the pregnant mother had several risk factors during her pregnancy that should have resulted in the midwife referring her to an obstetrician, and that the midwife failed to transfer the pregnant mother to the hospital when the midwife was unable to detect the baby’s heartbeat during labor. The medical malpractice claim further alleged that the midwife failed to promptly call for an ambulance when the baby was born without a heartbeat. The baby spent 21 days in the hospital following her birth.

The family of the baby settled the medical malpractice case for $730,000, which was approved by the court. Part of the money will go to the parents, part will be used to reimburse Medicaid, part will pay for attorney fees and litigation expenses, and the remainder will be placed into a “special needs trust” reviewed and approved by the state to insure compliance with federal guidelines that allows the baby to remain eligible for public benefits such as Medicaid but will also permit the parents to purchase special needs items that are not covered by Medicaid (any balance left in the special needs trust after the beneficiary’s death goes to the state). The family settled to avoid further litigation expenses and the risks of further litigation, knowing that the midwife’s medical malpractice insurance policy limit was $1 million (midwives in New Hampshire are not required to carry medical malpractice insurance).

The same midwife also settled another medical malpractice claim against her involving the claims of a patient who had to have a hysterectomy after developing an infection while being treated by the midwife. New Hampshire had opened an investigation of the midwife following numerous complaints from two hospitals and an obstetrician about the care she was providing to her patients.


Expecting couples anticipate the arrival of their newborns with loving wonder and great excitement. Many parents-to-be are nervous throughout the pregnancy because they fear that “something may go wrong” during the pregnancy or the delivery. Most couples are very careful in the selection of the medical providers who will provide care to the expectant mother and the newborn. Word-of-mouth referrals from previous patients who had good experiences with particular medical providers are a good start, but consideration must be given to the experience, training, and skill of prospective caregivers, especially in addressing riskier pregnancies and complicated births. Not only is it important to hire the best medical providers available, it is equally important that the proper facility is chosen, and the appropriate medical equipment is readily available for any possible complication, during labor and delivery.

There is often a turf war between obstetricians and midwives because their clientele are often the same and are often in limited supply. Many midwives have long and successful careers and never have medical malpractice claims brought against them. Same can be said for many obstetricians. Whether you choose an obstetrician or a midwife to help you with your pregnancy and the birth of your child may be based on personal preference, provider availability, medical necessity, and/or other factors. Whichever is chosen, make sure that contingency plans are discussed and agreed upon in the event of complications or other unexpected factors experienced during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, so that the risk of unpleasant (or worse) surprises during tense times is minimized.

In the event that your pregnancy, labor, or delivery was affected by possible medical malpractice, the advice and counsel of a medical malpractice attorney may be helpful to you.  Visit our website  or call us toll free at 800-295-3959 to be connected with medical malpractice lawyers in your local area who may be able to assist you in determining if you have a medical malpractice claim and represent you in your medical malpractice case, if appropriate.

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