Research gaps may contribute to birth injuries

Science has come a long way in helping pregnant women. Scientific research has made it possible to identify, prevent and treat numerous medical complications that could harm a mother or baby. But there are still significant gaps in medical research that leave many doctors and their patients confounded.

When a pregnant woman has a medical problem that does not have a body of research behind it, doctors sometimes use guesswork to determine a course of action--which can lead to birth injuries.

How lack of knowledge can lead to an injury

For centuries, scientists excluded pregnant women from medical studies for fear of injuring the fetus. This practice continued well into the 20th century. As a result, prenatal research has many lacunae. When doctors encounter a complication in a patient who is pregnant, they must somehow figure out how to address it. This may involve experimenting with various medications or courses of treatment.

Of course, all medical treatment involves some level of risk, and adverse outcomes do not necessarily indicate malpractice. But even without significant research for guidance, doctors have a duty to accurately diagnose and respond to prenatal conditions, discuss the potential consequences of a course of treatment and provide an adequate standard of care. If they fail to do this, their negligence may lead to a birth injury.

A doctor's ignorance is no excuse

Every parent hopes that their child will be healthy. When an infant suffers a birth injury, parents want to know who is liable.

Researchers are not responsible for birth injuries, even those that result from gaps in research knowledge. Rather, the responsibility falls to doctors and other medical professionals to have up-to-date knowledge of symptoms, conditions and treatments. If a court determines that a clinician failed to meet the standard of care because of their ignorance, then they may be held liable for a baby's birth injuries.

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