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Pediatrician’s Failure to Diagnose Heart Condition Results in $7 Million Verdict for Parents in Maryland

Being a parent – especially for the first time – often brings tremendous fear and the unknown. Many parents are overwhelmed, inexperienced and afraid that something might go wrong with their precious newborn. Parents rely heavily on their pediatrician to ease these fears and calm them down. On top of their counseling role, pediatricians certainly are responsible for monitoring and detecting the health of a newborn. For obvious reasons, choosing a pediatrician who they can trust is a special and serious task for parents. However, for one Maryland couple, their fears were falsely eased by the pediatrician they chose. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here.

Shortly after birth, on two separate occasions, Robert and Kate Henry took their newborn baby girl, Madison, to Children’s Medical Group in Cumberland for examinations. On both occasions, a nurse recorded an abnormally high heart rate for Madison. However, Madison’s pediatrician did not diagnose a heart problem or refer the baby to a specialist. Several days later, Madison’s mother sought emergency help when she noticed Madison was not breathing well. The baby was transported to the hospital via ambulance and had to be revived after losing consciousness during the trip. At the hospital, doctors discovered a congenital heart defect called coarctation of the aorta. During the surgery to repair the aorta, the baby’s heart stopped. Tragically, Madison suffered brain damage as a result of her heart stopping. Five years later, Madison now is severely disabled.

Madison’s parents brought a medical malpractice suit against the pediatrician, claiming his failure to refer Madison to a pediatric cardiologist after discovering an irregular and abnormally high heart beat constituted medical negligence. The parents claimed the pediatrician also committed medical malpractice by failing to order additional testing or making a referral. The defense argued that there was no negligence because the congenital heart condition did not manifest itself until the baby’s heart went into failure. At trial, attorneys for the parents argued that the coarctation of the aorta condition cannot be detected at birth. However, they stressed that while congenital heart defects are rare, this aortic condition is one of the more common defects.

Ultimately, the Allegheny County jury agreed with the parents and awarded them $7 million in damages. A portion of this verdict was for non-economic damages for pain and suffering of $1 million. Under state law, this amount will be reduced automatically to $695,000.

Parents who feel their child’s health and well-being have been compromised by a physician’s negligence, including a failure to diagnose, may be able to bring a medical malpractice suit. While nothing can compare to a healthy and happy child, there may be options available to reduce the heavy burden of medical bills and expenses on families that result from someone else’s negligence. The complexity of these medical malpractice suits cannot be undermined. Our experienced medical malpractice attorneys have successfully handled dozens of similar cases where a physician’s negligence in failing to diagnose a condition has resulted in tragic consequences.