Failure to Perform a C-section During Labor

June 1, 2024 | Marc Pera
Failure to Perform a C-section During Labor

Failing to perform a necessary C-section during labor can result in debilitating consequences, both for a mother and her child.

If you or your child suffered complications due to suspected medical malpractice, you need to consult with an experienced attorney right away. A knowledgeable medical malpractice lawyer can determine your available legal options and pursue the compensation that you and your child may need.


Possible Complications of Failing to Perform a C-section During Labor

Failure to Perform a C-section During Labor

When a C-section (cesarean section) is medically necessary during labor and not performed, it can lead to several serious complications for both the mother and the baby. These complications can range from immediate life-threatening conditions to long-term health issues.

  • One of the most immediate risks to the baby is hypoxia, which is a lack of oxygen. If labor is prolonged or the baby is in distress, not performing a C-section can result in reduced oxygen supply. This can cause brain damage, leading to conditions like cerebral palsy, developmental delays, or even death. Additionally, complications like shoulder dystocia, where the baby’s shoulder gets stuck in the birth canal, can cause physical injuries such as broken bones or nerve damage.
  • For the mother, failing to perform a C-section when necessary can result in uterine rupture – especially if she has had a previous C-section. Uterine rupture is a severe and life-threatening condition where the uterus tears along the scar line from a prior C-section. This can lead to severe bleeding, putting the mother’s life at risk and often necessitating an emergency hysterectomy (removal of the uterus).
  • Infections can also become a significant problem. Prolonged labor increases the risk of infection for both the mother and the baby. If the membranes have been ruptured for an extended period, bacteria can enter the uterus, leading to chorioamnionitis (infection of the placental tissues) and sepsis (a life-threatening infection that spreads through the bloodstream).
  • Furthermore, labor complications such as placental abruption, where the placenta detaches from the uterus wall before delivery, can occur. This can cause severe bleeding in the mother and deprive the baby of oxygen and nutrients, leading to fetal distress or stillbirth. Similarly, placenta previa, where the placenta covers the cervix, can cause severe bleeding during vaginal delivery, endangering both mother and child.
  • Long-term complications can also arise from not performing a necessary C-section. For the mother, this includes chronic pain, pelvic organ prolapse, and incontinence due to the excessive strain on pelvic muscles during a difficult vaginal delivery. The baby may also face ongoing health challenges stemming from birth injuries or lack of oxygen, which can affect their quality of life and development.

A medical malpractice case involving a failure to perform a C-section during labor hinges on several critical legal elements. The injured party (or plaintiff) must prove these elements to establish that medical malpractice occurred. Here are the key components:

  • Duty of Care – The first element is establishing that a duty of care existed between the healthcare provider and the patient. In the context of childbirth, this duty is inherently present once a medical professional agrees to oversee the labor and delivery process. Obstetricians, midwives, and other healthcare providers have a legal obligation to provide care that meets accepted medical standards.
  • Breach of Duty – The plaintiff must demonstrate that the healthcare provider breached this duty of care. This means proving that the provider failed to act in accordance with the standards of the medical community. For a failure to perform a C-section, the plaintiff must show that a reasonably competent healthcare provider in a similar situation would have recognized the need for a C-section and performed it.
  • Causation – There must be a direct link between the breach of duty and the injury sustained. This involves two components: actual cause (cause-in-fact) and proximate cause (legal cause). The plaintiff must prove that the failure to perform the C-section directly caused harm to the mother or baby. Additionally, the harm must have been a foreseeable result of the healthcare provider’s actions or inactions. For instance, if a C-section was not performed despite signs of fetal distress, the resulting injuries or complications must be shown to be a direct consequence of this failure.
  • Damages – The plaintiff must have suffered actual damages as a direct result of the breach. These damages can be physical, emotional, or financial. In cases of failure to perform a C-section, damages may include physical injuries to the mother or baby, pain and suffering, medical expenses, loss of future earnings, and, in severe cases, wrongful death. Documentation of these damages through medical records, expert testimony, and financial statements is crucial to substantiate the claim.
  • Expert TestimonyMedical malpractice cases, especially those involving complex medical decisions like the necessity of a C-section, typically require expert testimony. Medical experts in obstetrics and gynecology can provide insights into what constitutes standard care in similar circumstances – and whether the treating healthcare provider’s actions likely deviated from this standard. They can also help to establish causation by explaining how the provider’s failure led to the plaintiff’s injuries.

Helpful Evidence in Medical Malpractice Cases Involving Failure to Perform a C-Section 

Helpful Evidence in Medical Malpractice Cases Involving Failure to Perform a C-Section

In medical malpractice cases that involve a failure to perform a C-section during labor, gathering strong evidence is crucial to proving the claim. The following types of evidence can significantly help with building a compelling case:

  • Medical Records – Detailed medical records are foundational in any malpractice case. These include prenatal records, labor and delivery notes, fetal monitoring strips, and charts. They provide a timeline of the care provided and document the condition of both mother and baby during labor. Discrepancies or omissions in these records can highlight potential medical negligence.
  • Expert Testimony – Expert witnesses, typically experienced obstetricians, can offer professional opinions on whether the treating doctor met the required standard of care. They can explain what a competent healthcare provider would have done under similar circumstances and whether the failure to perform a C-section deviated from this standard. Their insights are critical in establishing whether the actions of the treating healthcare provider were negligent.
  • Eyewitness Accounts – Testimonies from those present during the labor and delivery, such as nurses, midwives, or family members, can provide valuable perspectives. They can offer firsthand accounts of the events, the mother’s condition, the baby’s condition, and the healthcare provider’s responses. Such testimony can corroborate or contradict the medical records and highlight any lapses in care.
  • Photographs and Videos – Visual evidence, if available, may also be powerful. Photos or videos taken during labor can document the mother’s condition, the baby’s condition after birth, and the actions of medical staff. They can serve as concrete evidence to support the claims of negligence or injury.
  • Communication Records – Records of communication, such as emails, texts, or notes from conversations between the patient and healthcare provider, can be crucial. These documents may show whether the healthcare provider was aware of the complications and what advice or decisions were communicated to the patient. They can also help to establish the timeline and nature of the information exchanged, shedding light on the decision-making process.
  • Post-Delivery Records – Records of the baby’s condition after birth, including Apgar scores, NICU records, and any immediate treatments or surgeries, are essential. They document the injuries sustained and can help link these injuries to the alleged failure to perform a timely C-section.
  • Medical Literature and Guidelines – Published medical guidelines and literature on obstetric care standards can be used to demonstrate what constitutes accepted medical practice. Comparing the actions of the healthcare provider to these standards can help to establish whether there was a deviation from accepted practice.

By carefully collecting and presenting this evidence, the plaintiff can build a strong case to show that their provider’s failure to perform a C-section constitutes medical malpractice.

Recovering Damages in a Medical Malpractice Case 

Recovering Damages in a Medical Malpractice Case

In a medical malpractice case involving the failure to perform a C-section during labor, several types of damages are recoverable. These damages are intended to compensate the injured party for various losses and effects on their life. Here are the main categories:

Medical Expenses:

This type of damage covers the cost of medical care related to the injury. It includes:

  • Past medical bills, including costs for hospital stays, surgeries, medications, and other treatments already received
  • Future medical costs, including estimated expenses for ongoing and future medical care, such as physical therapy, surgeries, and long-term care if the injury has lasting effects

Lost Income:

If the injury prevents the mother (or later, the child) from working, they can claim compensation for lost income. This includes:

  • Past lost income, including income lost from time off work due to the injury
  • Potential future earnings lost if the injury leads to a long-term or permanent inability to work

Pain and Suffering:

This category compensates for the physical pain and emotional distress resulting from the injury. It includes:

  • Physical pain, or compensation for the actual physical pain experienced due to the injury
  • Emotional distress, including damages for mental anguish, anxiety, depression, and other emotional effects of the injury

Disability and Disfigurement:

If the injury results in a lasting disability or disfigurement, additional damages can be awarded. This includes:

  • Permanent disability, or compensation for loss of function or mobility, which can affect the individual’s ability to perform daily activities or work
  • Disfigurement, including damages for visible scars or other permanent changes to appearance that affect the individual’s quality of life

Loss of Consortium:

This type of damage compensates family members for the loss of companionship, care, and affection due to the injury. It also recognizes the effect on relationships within the family, such as the strain on a marriage or the inability of a parent to care for their child.

Punitive Damages:

In rare cases, punitive damages may be available if the healthcare provider’s conduct was especially reckless or malicious. These damages punish the provider and deter similar behavior in the future.

Settling or Litigating a Medical Malpractice Case

Deciding whether to settle or litigate a medical malpractice case involving failure to perform a C-section is a significant decision that requires careful consideration. Here’s a breakdown of the two options:


Settling a case involves reaching an agreement with the healthcare provider or their insurance company outside of court. In a settlement, the parties negotiate a monetary amount to compensate the injured party, and in return, the injured party agrees to drop the lawsuit and not pursue further legal action. Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether to settle:

  • Certainty – Settling provides a guaranteed outcome, avoiding the uncertainty and potential stress of a trial.
  • Speed – Settlements typically resolve cases more quickly than litigation, allowing the injured party to receive compensation sooner.
  • Privacy – Settlements are often confidential, meaning that details of the case are not made public.
  • Control – Both parties have more control over the outcome and terms of the settlement compared to a trial.


Litigating involves taking the case to court and having a judge or jury decide the outcome. Here are some factors to consider when deciding whether to litigate:

  • Evidence – Strong evidence and expert testimony may support the injured party’s case, making litigation a viable option.
  • Principles – Some injured parties may feel strongly about holding the healthcare provider accountable in a public forum.
  • Fairness – Litigating allows the injured party to present their case fully and have a neutral party (judge or jury) determine the outcome.

The final decision about whether to settle or litigate depends upon the specific case circumstances, including the strength of the evidence, the potential outcomes, and the preferences of the parties involved. An experienced medical malpractice attorney can help you understand your options and make informed decisions.

Speak with an Experienced Medical Malpractice Lawyer Today

An experienced Columbus personal injury attorney can review your circumstances and options with you and take the appropriate legal steps on your behalf. Specifically, your lawyer can negotiate with the negligent medical provider’s insurance company – or litigate your case in court – to maximize the compensation you recover for your injuries.

Marc Pera Author Image

Marc Pera


From an early age, Marc was taught the importance of helping others. That is why he loves being a trial lawyer who helps those who have suffered catastrophic injuries or lost loved ones because of the negligence of others.

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