Home > Legal > Medical Malpractice Claim Over Baby's Cerebral Palsy Leads To $15.8 Million Jury Verdict

Medical Malpractice Claim Over Baby's Cerebral Palsy Leads To $15.8 Million Jury Verdict

Pregnancy carries with it the risk of problems many of which may, if not detected and treated right away, cause significant harm to the baby and the mother. An umbilical cord compression is a particularly significant risk to the baby. This situation comes up when undue pressure is placed on the umbilical cord. Circumstances under which this happens include when the cord slips into the birth canal and is compressed as the baby descends, or when the umbilical cords becomes wrapped around the baby's neck (called a nuchal cord). The pressure on the cord results in a restriction of the supply of necessary blood and oxygen.
If medical professionals notice a considerable slowing down of the baby's heart rate they should look at a cord compression as a potential reason. This is specially true if the heart rate slows downs in waves or episodes - a pattern that is identified as decelerations. Because an unborn baby cannot survive long without suffering a severe brain injury or even dying, the necessary supply of oxygen needs to be restored right away. If the compression is not severe then repositioning the mother to eliminate pressure on the cord, or giving her oxygen and fluids, might alleviate the problem. These techniques do not resolve the problem every time thereby restoring oxygen supply to the baby. In such situations, a physician might have to perform an emergency C-section.
The failure by a physician or nurse to identify the signs of a cord compression and to immediately take suitable action to resolve the situation or deliver the baby might lead to a medical malpractice claim. Look at, for example, the lawsuit that was filed after a pregnant woman, at full term, went to the hospital as scheduled to be induced for labor. The staff administered Pitocin to induce labor. After the drug was given, the fetal heart rate monitor revealed several umbilical cord compressions as decelerations of the unborn baby's heart rate. The staff repositioned the mother after which the baby's heart rate went back to normal.
Regrettably, when the woman asked to use the bathroom, the obstetrics resident disconnected the fetal heart rate monitor. It was discontinued for 11 minutes. These eleven minutes were vital. The cord became compressed limiting the baby's oxygen supply. The baby was born suffering from asphyxiation with resulting significant mental retardation and cerebral palsy.
No settlement was reached in this matter and so the lawsuit went to trial. At the trial evidence showed that leaving the fetal heart rate monitor disconected for those 11 minutes after the unborn baby had suffered a series of heart rate decelerations amounted to medical malpractice. Basically, it came with too high a risk that there might be further umbilical cord compressions that would not be discovered and therefore would not, and indeed did not, lead to the application of additional procedures like more position changes and, if required, an emergency C-section that could have kept the child from suffering brain damage. The law firm published that the jury returned a verdict of $15.8 million for the family.
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