In South Africa, poor working conditions in state hospitals, along with a shortage of midwives, are among the factors leading to alarmingly high rates of birth injuries.
These are injuries that result from trauma to the baby, mother or both during the birth process. Too often, they’re a result of medical malpractice or negligence.
Some birth injuries result in permanent disabilities. Others are fatal.
South Africa’s health and healthcare shortcomings are reflected in its infant mortality rate of 32.99 deaths per 100,000 live births – compared to a rate of just 2.06 in Iceland, 2.08 in Japan or 4.38 in the United Kingdom. The maternal mortality rate is also shockingly high, especially in district hospitals.
The most common birth injuries in South Africa
The latest report from South Africa’s Perinatal Problem Identification Program cites oxygen deprivation and asphyxia during delivery as leading causes of death among full-term babies.
One of the most common birth injuries suffered by babies in South Africa is cerebral palsy – a form of brain damage that can occur as a result of oxygen deprivation. Cerebral palsy often occurs when the birth process is dragged out for too long, the mother’s uterus is overstimulated or foetal distress is not recognised in time.
According to one source, as many as 50% of children with cerebral palsy may have the condition because of avoidable birth complications.
Other common birth injuries in South Africa include facial palsy, fractures and infections.
The most common birth injuries suffered by mothers during delivery are vaginal tears, fissures, incorrect stitching following an episiotomy or C-section, and failure to manage pre-eclampsia or infections.
Pursuing a birth injury claim
If you or your child has suffered a birth injury due to medical malpractice, you’re entitled to claim compensation. This includes compensation for medical expenses associated with the injury. It may also include damages for general pain and suffering.
It’s very important to note that if you intend to pursue a claim against a state organ as a result of your treatment at a state or provincial hospital, notice of the intended action must be given within 6 months of the incident. It’s imperative to seek legal advice as soon as possible after the event so that technical obstacles don’t compromise your potential claim.
To support a personal injury claim for a birth injury, make sure you keep all medical records associated with the injury. Document what you believe occurred and why. If possible, also take names and contact details for any witnesses, including medical staff and anyone else who were present.
How DSC Attorneys can help
At DSC Attorneys, we specialise in personal injury claims and our medico-legal team has extensive experience in handling birth injury claims.
We can assess your claim, help prepare supporting evidence and represent you in legal proceedings, giving you the best chance of receiving the compensation you deserve. We also work on a “no win, no fee” basis.