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Do doctors have a duty to inform mothers of stillbirth risks?

On Behalf of | Oct 21, 2021 | Birth injury

Pregnancy is an exciting time for many women. However, complications can occur, and people generally expect doctors in New Jersey to disclose potential risks to expectant moms. Stillbirth is one of those issues.

How common is stillbirth?

Sadly, birth defects and stillbirths are more common than many people may think. Many pregnancies, especially first-time pregnancies, result in loss. Stillbirth occurs after 20 weeks of pregnancy but before childbirth. In the United States, around 26,000 women experience a stillbirth each year. That number is higher compared with those in other developed countries.

Should doctors inform mothers of stillbirth risks?

Standard patient protocol requires doctors to inform women of the risks associated with pregnancy, such as birth defects. However, stillbirth has long been an exception to that rule. However, the argument has been made that pregnant women should be given the information that their babies may possibly be stillborn. If this information is not disclosed, women should have the right to file a medical malpractice lawsuit.

While women in other countries experience stillbirths as well, the rate has decreased. Doctors in various other countries regularly disclose the risks to women and teach them about preventive measures. If this occurred in New Jersey and the United States, the rate of stillbirth could be reduced considerably. If women have the right to file a lawsuit, it could potentially have the same type of effect and lower the risk of giving birth to a stillborn baby.

The phenomenon of doctors withholding otherwise valuable information about birth injuries or stillbirth risks is known as medical paternalism. The belief is that the doctor is the only one who benefits from this information being withheld. However, if women were informed by their doctors of the risks, there may even be a decrease in medical malpractice lawsuits filed.

Informed consent is something all patients, including pregnant women, are due. When doctors fail to disclose the risk of stillbirth, it can result in unnecessary tragedy and more lawsuits.