England’s National Health Service (NHS) has been hit by a drastic increase in birth injury lawsuits, the Daily Mail reports, with claims for compensation related to infant brain damage and cerebral palsy rising by 25% over the previous year alone.
Birth Injury Claims Soar In England
In the last year, a total of 232 families have submitted birth injury-related claims against government-run maternity wards, the most such claims in over a decade. The value of compensation awards has also soared, reaching over $2.5 billion in 2016, or around $10.5 million per settlement, the highest numbers ever recorded. Currently, an estimated four babies sustain brain damage every week due to to medical mistakes made by NHS medical professionals.
England’s socialized health service pays out a remarkable amount of money to families and children affected by birth negligence, in part because kids who sustain brain injury at birth often require life-long medical care.
A recent report from NHS Resolution, the government office tasked with overseeing malpractice claims, shows that only 10% of medical malpractice claims submitted between 2016 and 2017 involved childbirth. But this small proportion of total claims accounted for almost 50% of the total financial compensation authorized for distribution.
“Cult-Like Fixation” On “Normal Births”
Peter Walsh, the chief executive for Action Against Medical Accidents, a UK non-profit dedicated to supporting the victims of medical negligence, attributes the nation’s striking surge in birth injury cases to two recent trends:
- a “cult-like fixation” on “normal births”
- staffing shortages that leave maternity wards short-handed
That first factor, a monomaniacal focus on “normal birth,” originates largely in the Royal College of Midwives. For over a decade, the trade union and professional organization has spearheaded a “Campaign for Normal Births,” discouraging expectant mothers from requesting medical intervention during childbirth.
Is Medical Intervention Bad For Mothers & Babies?
While the explicit Campaign has now been ended, the Royal College of Midwives continues to support the idea that childbirth without epidurals, labor induction or cesarean delivery is the right approach, according to the Guardian.
Medical researchers, on the other hand, generally agree that the advent of modern medical technology can be thanked for the drastic decreases in both fetal and maternal death rates over the last nine decades. According to a 2000 study from the American Society for Clinical Nutrition, maternal mortality rates throughout the developed world are today around 40- to 50-times lower than they were back in the 1930s.
Midwives Support “Natural Birth”
Critics, however, have accused the union’s Campaign of shaming women who request medical treatments and creating a hostile relationship between midwives and doctors within many of England’s hospitals.
This “dysfunctional culture” certainly contributed to the unacceptable increase in birth injuries observed last year, Walsh says. “No mother should be made to feel abnormal because an intervention is needed, and patient safety should always be the first concern.”
Series Of Tragic Deaths Leads To Revelatory Investigation
An investigation into 11 child fatalities that occurred at the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay discovered a “lethal mix” of mistakes and oversights that allowed 10 babies and 1 mother to die between 2004 and 2013, according to the report in the Guardian. A group of midwives, who called themselves the “Musketeers,” supported natural deliveries “at any cost,” investigators found.
Dr. Bill Kirkup ,who led the government’s inquest said that the Muskeeters failed to notify physicians of emergency complications, contributing directly to a number of tragic deaths. Dr. Kirkup continued: “our findings are stark and catalogue a series of failures at almost every level – from the maternity unit to those responsible for regulating and monitoring the [hospital]. The nature of these problems is serious and shocking.”
The Royal College of Midwives vehemently denies that the tragic events in Morecombe Bay had anything to do with the association’s Campaign for Normal Births.
Obstetrician Group Downplays “Intuition”
A recent analysis from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is also telling. After reviewing the 1,136 cases of infant brain damage documented in 2015, the professional organization’s experts ruled that a large majority, 76%, of the injuries could have been avoided through better medical care.
To solve the problem, the Royal College spoke out against “trusting intuition.” Gut instinct is a “productive” element of midwifery, according to many midwives. “Trust your intuition” was a primary message imparted to practicing birth professionals during the Royal College of Midwives’ Campaign For Normal Births. Instead of trusting a gut instinct, the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists advises practitioners to “seek out advice” from their colleagues before making a critical decision.
Campaign For Normal Births Ends
The Royal College of Midwives announced the end of the Campaign for Normal Births just days ago, a move that UK health minister Philip Dunne hailed as progress. Quoted by the Daily Mail, Dunne said, “The NHS is already one of the safest places in the world to give birth. But we want NHS maternity care to be even better and have made tackling such tragic failures a priority.”