Some lessons (and comfort) for obstetricians and gynaecologists
It is worthwhile revisiting the 2014 Supreme Court of Appeal judgment in the matter of Sibisi and Dr Maitin for the positive lessons it holds for obstetricians and gynaecologists. The doctor was successful both in the lower court and on appeal in defending the action for alleged medical negligence against him.
The Plaintiff, the mother of a baby daughter who had suffered an injury to the brachial plexus resulting in Erb’s palsy, alleged negligent conduct on the part of the doctor in delivering her child. Shoulder dystocia had occurred.
The daughter was very large at birth, weighing 4.68 kg and, on the probabilities, that was the cause of the shoulder dystocia. The doctor had performed a manoeuvre to release the shoulder. The Plaintiff argued that a combination of the failure to accurately estimate the weight of the baby, to perform a Caesarean section instead of proceeding with a trial of labour, and the incorrect use of the McRoberts’ manoeuvre amounted to negligent conduct – which caused the injury to the brachial plexus and the resultant Erb’s palsy.
There are a number of elements of the alleged negligent conduct, which deserve consideration and attention.