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Obstetric Violence Is a Concern for Virginia Mothers

Cranwell & Moore P.L.C. Feb. 14, 2023

Women in Virginia who suffer unwanted medical interventions during birth may have cause for filing a medical malpractice lawsuit.

While the term “obstetric violence” may be relatively new in Virginia and across this country, the behaviors behind it have been in practice for decades. As a report from Yahoo! Parenting points out, this troubling aspect of maternity care – in which women are bullied into medical interventions or otherwise mistreated during pregnancy and labor – is disturbingly common. A recent story concerning a mother of four has thrown the topic into headlines, reminding parents to know their rights when working with medical professionals.

A Frightening Situation

Imagine going into labor expecting a calm, empowering experience, as was promised by a medical center. That is what a then-32-years-old woman had planned for when she went to a facility in Alabama in 2012 to give birth to her fourth child.

Instead, she was given drugs without her knowledge. Nurses forced her onto her back as the infant was crowning, holding the baby’s head to prevent delivery for six minutes. As a result, the woman, who filed a lawsuit against the medical center, has a serious nerve injury and posttraumatic stress disorder. She has to take medications to avoid panic attacks, and she has to see a therapist. Yahoo! Parenting reports that her story, unfortunately, is all too common.

Deceptive Practices

According to the report, women may be lured into medical facilities that promise more autonomy during the birth process. For example, a woman is told she will be able to make decisions about the birth, such as whether or not to receive pain medication. However, once admitted to the facility, the woman is met with quite the opposite. Several mothers across the country have filed lawsuits against physicians who take liberties during labor, such as forced episiotomies. The claims allege medical malpractice or even assault and battery.

Virginia Medical Malpractice Law

As experts point out, often the only way to hold these establishments accountable is to file a medical negligence lawsuit. Virginia law gives victims of negligence two years from the date of the injury to file a claim against a defendant. The state does not have a discovery rule, so the clock starts ticking when the injury occurred – not when the injury was discovered. Other items to consider include the following:

  • Virginia requires a medical expert to establish the standard of care that should have been provided.

  • The medical expert must also show how the defendant violated that standard.

  • A review panel will first determine the validity of a claim before it can proceed.

Virginia also places a cap on medical malpractice awards, which is raised every year. Currently, a victim can recover no more than $2.2 million.

Anyone who has questions about matters such as this should consult with an attorney.