Can Midwives Be Sued for Malpractice?

Welcoming a new baby into the world is a seminal event in the lives of families around the world. In the United States, families, friends, and co-workers celebrate the coming child with baby showers and gifts. The expecting parents may plan a gender reveal party and pregnancy photo shoots. 

Of course, there is also a health component to pregnancy. Women often make dietary changes, modify exercise habits, and alter other life routines in the interest of maximizing their health and the health of their unborn child. Prenatal care is also considered essential. 

While the great majority of women still deliver their children in a hospital with the help of an obstetrician, other options exist. In fact, the number of women choosing to have a midwife involved in their pregnancy has increased in recent years. In this article, we will discuss some of the benefits of midwifery, along with a patient’s options in the event of malpractice.

What Is Midwifery?

In general, certified professional midwives are professionals that help care for women during pregnancy, childbirth, and the postpartum period. They often work in private homes and birth centers. According to the North American Registry of Midwives (NARM), the guiding principles are to promote a healthy pregnancy and to educate women so that they can better make good decisions about their care during this period. Midwives have education and clinical experience, which allows them to perform this role. 

Are Midwives Used Widely?

The answer depends, at least in part, on where you live. Midwifery is more common in many other developed countries than it is in the United States. For example, midwives are involved in more than half of all births in England.

In the United States, midwifery was once more common, with New York City requiring licensing as early as 1716. According to RegisteredNursing.org, a shift to hospitals for childbirth began as anesthesia became more common. By the 1960s, 97 percent of childbirths in the U.S. occurred in hospitals.

Today, there is a renewed interest in America in the use of midwives. One common reason given is that the midwifery model of childbirth is considered less invasive with fewer medical interventions. The Atlantic cites a study reporting that when midwives are involved, fewer pregnancies end in C-section births. Childbirth is treated as a natural event - not a medical event.

Potential Benefits of Midwifery

Scientific American states that America needs more midwives for maternity care. The publication notes that both women and infants have higher mortality rates in the United States than in other developed countries. One advantage is that midwives can assist low-risk pregnancies in rural areas that do not have enough doctors or hospitals.

A study from Oregon State University found that states with laws friendly to midwifery had lower percentages of newborn deaths, premature births, and C-section deliveries. Finally, midwifery can reduce the cost associated with childbirth.

How is Midwifery Regulated in Oregon?

In Oregon, midwives are required to be licensed. The State Board of Direct Entry Midwifery is directed to establish standards for licensure. These standards must be consistent with the requirements established by NARM for becoming a certified professional midwife. A number of other requirements are set out by Oregon Revised Statutes, including section 687.420.

Can Midwives Commit Malpractice?

Yes. Midwives are licensed caregivers, and like other medical professionals, they must meet the applicable standard of care. If they act negligently and cause harm, they can be held responsible for their actions under the law. A victim of such negligence is entitled to recover damages to be made whole.

Call with Questions

If you have suffered harm due to the negligence of a midwife or other medical care professional, we know you will have questions. Please call us for a free consultation, and we will answer them. The experienced medical malpractice attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield have the knowledge and experience to assist you with the investigation of your claim, settlement negotiations, and a trial if necessary. We believe that the only way to keep society safe is to hold professionals accountable for their wrongdoing.


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