Caroline Malatesta gave birth to three children in traditional hospital settings, but during her fourth pregnancy, she switched to Brookwood Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama, which promised “autonomy” during the labor and delivery process as well as other amenities including posh birthing suites and a commitment to honoring the mother’s birth plan. The reality Malatesta experienced veered wildly off course from what she had hoped for and what Brookwood had advertised. At one point during childbirth she was “forced onto her back by a nurse who held her son’s crowning head inside her for six minutes” in order to wait for a doctor’s arrival. In addition to debilitating physical trauma that left her bedridden, such as enduring a birthing injury that resulted in chronic nerve damage, Malatesta has had numerous psychological effects, battling panic attacks, PTSD, and emotional scars from the birthing experience. Traumatic birth stories are often discounted and/or don’t result in any action on behalf of hospitals or medical centers, but on August 5th, Malatesta received both validation and compensation. She was awarded $16 million in damages. Malatesta said that she would have preferred to work with the hospital in lieu of litigation, but she is happy with the outcome and has received support from other women who have had similar experiences, including other former patients of Brookwood. The case is considered a landmark for its potential implications in traumatic birth lawsuits.
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Lead image © Caroline Malatesta