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Federally-funded medical facilities and malpractice lawsuits

In many cases, the federal government is protected from lawsuits. However, there is an exception. The Federal Tort Claims Act allows people to sue the federal government in the case of medical malpractice although punitive damages will not be awarded. At one federally-funded health clinic, a child suffered severe permanent brain damage after a mid-forceps delivery. A judge in Pennsylvania ordered the federal government to pay $41.6 million in the case.

One expert witness testified that mid-forceps deliveries should only be used in severe emergencies while another stated that forceps could destroy the cerebellum and brain stream, cause a brain bleed, or cause skull fractures. According to the lawsuit, the forceps were misapplied and use with excessive force, and this resulted in the injury.

There are different procedures to keep in mind when filing a lawsuit under the FTCA, and they must be followed precisely if the medical professional who is being sued is an employee of the federally-funded facility and not a contractor. Within two years or a reasonable amount of time after discovering the injury, the person filing suit has to send the agency a notice of claim. The agency then has six months to respond, and the person has six months after the response to file a lawsuit.

In determining whether birth injuries constitute a case of medical malpractice, a jury will look at the quality of the medical care. In some cases, an injury may occur despite the medical professional's best efforts, but if the mother or child did not receive a reasonable standard of care, the jury might decide there was medical malpractice. For example, the progress of labor might not be monitored carefully enough, or the medical professional might not act in time if the mother or child is in distress.

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