Doctors first discovered Oxytocin in 1952. At the time, many people viewed it as a miracle mother-baby drug that could jump start stalled labor and help avoid serious complications. That’s still true in many parts of the world where sudden and unexpected onset of labor is the norm.
But Florida hospitals deliver most babies during scheduled inductions. In these settings, doctors use Pitocin to start labor and not to hasten it. But the mother’s body does not go by the hospital’s schedule. If the mother is simply not ready to deliver, the medical staff sometimes increases Pitocin doses to dangerously high levels.
Pitocin and HIE in Florida
Researchers have now conclusively established that Pitocin contractions are often different from natural contractions. Pit causes harder contractions that are much closer together. In general, that’s a good thing, because it speeds the labor-delivery process.
But in some cases, additional speed in the birthing room is not a good thing. For one thing, the doctor is often not in the birthing room as the Pitocin levels go up. In many cases, the doctor is not even at the hospital. If a high medicine level speeds the process out of control, there’s a potential for a very serious situation.
More commonly, high Pitocin levels often cause Hypoxic-Ischemic Encephalopathy (HIE). The uterus only gives nutrients to the baby during breaks between contractions when the mother’s body is at rest. If the contractions are too hard and too close, the mother’s body does not get that needed rest. As a result, the baby does not get enough oxygen. About a quarter of HIE babies have permanent brain damage.
Moreover, reactions to Pitocin vary significantly. If the mother is a first-time mom, there is almost no way to know how she will react. In some cases, just a tiny bit of Pitocin is enough to induce hard labor; in other cases, the patient is much more tolerant.
Liability in Florida Birth Injury Cases
If the doctor is close at hand and prepared to deal with birthing room emergencies, HIE is rather easy to prevent. It’s possible to limit or even eliminate brain damage simply through hypothermia treatment, or cooling the body.
If brain damage does set in, the doctor is almost always responsible. In a doctor-patient relationship, the patient is completely reliant on the Florida doctor. So, the standard of care is very high. Any violation of this standard of care is negligence as a matter of law.
Sometimes, Florida doctors violate the standard of care in the birthing room. They do not respond promptly and/or properly to emergency situations. Other times, a doctor ignores clear risk factors during prenatal visits. Often, the doctor dismisses risk as only “borderline” problems or approaches these issues with an “I’ve got this” mentality.
The hospital or clinic that employs the doctor is usually responsible for damages as well. Under the respondeat superior doctrine, employers are liable for the negligent acts of their employees. Furthermore, under the negligent hiring doctrine, employers are responsible for damages if the people they hire are legally incompetent. One can be a licensed physician and still be an incompetent labor and delivery doctor.
Team Up with Aggressive Attorneys
Pitocin overdose can lead to serious injury. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Brandon, contact Reed & Reed. We have four area offices (St. Petersburg, Lakeland, Tampa, and Clearwater).