Can Midwives Be Sued for Medical Malpractice?
In states where midwives must be licensed, they can be sued for medical malpractice when negligent care results in patient injuries.
Midwives Face Liability for Patient Injuries
In some countries, midwives have been used for years to deliver babies, but the United States has relied mainly on obstetricians. Over the last decade, the number of expectant mothers using midwives in the U.S. has hit record highs. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in 10 vaginal deliveries are now performed by midwives.
Medical experts attribute the rise in midwifery to maternal concerns about risks associated with Caesarean section (C-section), as midwives do not perform them. In most cases, midwives shy away from inducing labor, which can lead to a greater likelihood of C-section and delivery complications. If something goes wrong during labor or delivery, an obstetrician is usually called in to perform an emergency C-section to prevent complications and injuries to mother and child.
Many states require midwives to have a professional license to practice. Indiana is one of 15 states that prohibits women from using a Certified Professional Midwife (CPM) for at-home childbirth. Indiana’s requirements for practicing midwives are significantly higher than the requirements in other states. In Indiana, midwives must qualify as a certified nurse-midwife (CNM) to practice midwifery. A CNM is a registered nurse with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and possibly a master’s degree from a nationally accredited school of midwifery A CNM is licensed as a registered nurse by the Indiana State Board of Nursing.
As a licensed registered nurse, a midwife in Indiana can be sued for medical malpractice when negligent actions cause patient harm. Like licensed physicians, licensed midwives also have a duty of care to their patients, so most CNMs carry malpractice insurance that covers professional liability. If patient injuries occur, a medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed to prove that negligence on the part of the midwife who caused injuries.
In Indiana, no medical malpractice lawsuit can be filed in the civil court system unless the patient first files a complaint with a medical review panel, typically made up of one Indiana injury lawyer and three health care providers. The panel reviews relevant medical records, listens to witness testimony, and considers all evidence. Within 180 days, the panel issues a conclusion on whether the defendant violated the standard duty of care and caused harm to the patient.