Articles Posted in Obstetrician Malpractice

A wrongful birth medical malpractice case alleges that a heath care provider such as a doctor (such as an OBGYN or radiologist), hospital or laboratory was negligent by failing to properly inform a pregnant mother that her fetus had some serious medical condition, so that the mother would have had an opportunity to terminate the pregnancy.

One type of wrongful birth claim involves the failure of an obstetrician or lab to properly report a positive blood test called a quadruple screen, which screens for a number of prenatal abnormalities such as Down Syndrome.  Another type of wrongful birth claim involves the failure of a radiologist to properly report that a sonogram shows Spina Bifida or certain markers, sometimes called hard and soft markers, for Down Syndrome.

Most states, like Maryland and the District of Columbia have recognized the ability of a mother to bring a wrongful birth medical malpractice claim.  Usually, the mother is allowed to claim the extraordinary cost of raising the child which, for a child with Down Syndrome, can be millions and millions of dollars.

Shoulder dystocia occurs when, during childbirth, the baby’s shoulders get stuck on the mother’s pelvis bones after delivery of the head. This complication is considered an obstetric emergency and, if it is not dealt with quickly, serious injury can occur to both the pregnant woman and the baby. Indeed, if during shoulder dystocia the umbilical cord is compressed for even a short time, the baby can die. Significant risk factors for shoulder dystocia include gestational diabetes, excessive weight gain and post-term pregnancies.

One method of resolving an episode of shoulder dystocia is by applying gentle traction in an attempt to free the shoulder from the pelvic bone. However, it is crucial that the obstetrician not apply excessive traction. Doing so can cause a severe and permanent injury to the baby’s brachial plexus, which is a group of major nerves that run from the spine into the arm that control movement and sensation to the arm. If too much traction is used, the injury to the brachial plexus can cause devastating Erb’s Palsy which is essentially paralysis and lack of sensation of the arm due to a tearing of the brachial plexus.

In medical malpractice cases involving shoulder dystocia resulting in Erb’s Palsy, the defendant doctor often takes the position that because shoulder dystocia is a recognized obstetrical emergency, a brachial plexus injury is a reasonable – although unfortunate – result of the doctor’s attempt to save the child’s life. An experienced medical malpractice attorney must anticipate this argument and be prepared with the appropriate experts to counter it with evidence that the risk/reward analysis of the particular circumstances did not warrant the excessive traction that cased the injuries. We have successfully handled many Erb’s Plasy cases. For a free consultation, please call us.

Over the years, I have successfully handled a number of medical malpractice birth injury cases. The birth of a child should be an exciting and happy occasion for all parents. Especially for new parents, labor and delivery can be scary and intimidating, and that is why parents trust their doctors and nurses to perform to the best of their abilities and provide excellent medical care. This means putting their own lives and their child’s life in the hands of medical staff and trusting that everyone will be happy and healthy. Sadly, the doctors and nurses who are responsible for delivering babies sometimes can endanger the health and safety of both baby and mom through mistakes and inattention. These injuries happen far too often and can result in irreparable harm to the baby prior to and during delivery. Birth injuries can have significant consequences on a child’s health and future, and on a family who must cope with the financial hardships of raising a child with a severe disability or condition.

Recently, according to a Chester County, Pennsylvania jury, two nurses were found to be negligent in a medical malpractice lawsuit lodged by a mother on behalf of her infant daughter. The jury concluded that the little girl suffered brain damage at birth because nurses at a Pennsylvania hospital failed to alert doctors about changes in the baby’s condition prior to delivery.

After being admitted in early labor at a Pennsylvania hospital, the mother was placed on a fetal heart monitor designed to monitor the baby’s heart rate for any dangerous changes throughout the labor and delivery. The lawsuit alleged that about two hours after the mother was admitted, two attending nurses noticed that the baby’s heart rate had dropped significantly, from about 150 beats per minute, to about 60 beats per minute. Although this condition persisted, the nurses failed to alert the mother’s physician in a timely manner, and nearly fifteen minutes passed before the physician saw that the child’s heart rate had dropped significantly. Due to an additional delay in preparing anesthesia for an emergency Cesarean section, the baby was not delivered until about thirty minutes later. According to the family’s attorney and medical experts who testified, it was likely that the heart rate dropped because oxygen flow to the baby’s brain had been blocked by a kink in her umbilical cord.

Over the years, I have represented a number of families who have suffered catastrophic consequences of childbirth. A recent news report discusses two cases that very similar to cases that I have successful handled.

In the recent matters, a Massachusetts hospital launched an internal review following the tragic deaths of two young mothers during childbirth. One mother died in mid-January, leaving four children, including her newborn baby girl, after suffering an amniotic fluid embolism. The other mother died just one month earlier after giving birth to her first child, a healthy baby boy, due to complications from a Caesarean section. The Massachusetts Department of Health also is investigating these deaths as part of a standard protocol. A copy of the article regarding the investigation can be found here.

Amniotic fluid embolism is a terrible complication of pregnancy and childbirth. When an amniotic fluid embolism occurs, fluid from the mother’s amniotic sac enters the mother’s circulatory system carrying fetal debris which can migrate throughout the mother’s organs, sending the mother into serious bodily shock. When this occurs, the results can be extreme for both the mother and the unborn baby. Several risk factors may help to predict amniotic fluid embolisms before they occur, including sudden and traumatic labor, advanced maternal age, placental abruption, and delivery using forceps or vacuum extraction. The failure to anticipate and protect a patient who may have one or more of these risk factors may constitute medical malpractice.

Patients place incredible trust in their physicians and medical professionals when they visit hospitals for identifying or treating a medical problem. That trust comes with a responsibility on the part of the medical team, from doctors to nurses and nurse’s assistants, to conduct themselves in a reasonably careful manner under the circumstances. Patients cannot always expect perfection or treatment free of risk, but they do have the right to expect reasonable and safe care from the medical staff. When a physician or any medical staffer fails to provide that level of care, victims should consider a medical malpractice lawsuit so that they can have the financial ability to pay for extensive medical care that medical negligence can cost.

That is exactly what happened about a year and a half ago in Los Angeles, California. The case, filed on behalf of the 18-month-old boy by his mother, Dyrene Loftis, alleged that due to poor medical care, she suffered a ruptured uterus that caused a lack of oxygen to the child during his delivery. Loftis was 39 weeks pregnant and living at a downtown homeless shelter in Los Angeles with her other two children. In April 2012, she complained of severe abdominal pains and was rushed to the Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center for treatment. She spent 14 hours in the labor and delivery unit before being discharged and sent back to the homeless shelter. Surprisingly, Loftis was never seen by an obstetrician during her hospital stay. Less than twelve hours later, she returned to the hospital with a ruptured uterus and underwent an emergency C-section to deliver the baby. The uterine rupture caused a lack of oxygen to the baby during his delivery. The baby, now eighteen months old, suffers from severe brain damage and requires assistance to breathe and eat. He is in a 24-hour long-term care facility and Loftis travels on a two-hour bus ride to visit him several times a week. A copy of the article regarding the case can be found here.

Loftis brought a medical malpractice suit against the LA County-USC Medical Center, alleging that negligence by the medical staff resulted in the brain damage to her baby. Earlier this week, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors approved a $7.5 million settlement in the medical malpractice case. The settlement, which includes more than $300,000 in payment for the baby’s future medical care costs, will allow his mother to buy a house and move him out of his 24-hour facility.

When most hear about complications during childbirth most immediately think of the child. Obviously the birthing process is a delicate one, and infants are quite vulnerable to long-term harm that results from prolonged oxygen deprivation, the applications of excess force, and other incidents. However, it is important not to forget that mothers are just as susceptible to serious injury and even death caused by problems during childbirth. In fact, according to some recent reports, the most serious maternal complications are actually on the rise in the United States.

CDC Maternal Injury Report

Some assume that the days of high maternal death rates during childbirth are a thing of the past – at least in the developed world. The reality, however, is that while medical advances have obviously made childbirth safer, there remains serious risks of a mother suffering injury during birth. Those risks may be higher now than they were just a few decades ago.

The birth of a child is supposed to be one of the happiest moments in the life of a family. Unfortunately, for some the memorable occasions turns into a nightmare. That is because, at rates far higher than many suspect, childbirth can result in complications and injuries to the mother or child. Because of the delicate nature of the situation, when a new child is hurt during birth, the consequences are often quite severe. Birth injuries can prove to cause lifelong harm and can even be fatal.

When Is Medical Malpractice Involved?

Following a traumatic childbirth that leads to injury, mothers and fathers often have the same question: Could this have been prevented? Of course, there is no one-size-fits-all answer. The delivery of a new baby is a delicate process that is very fact-specific. Two births may be very different, requiring different actions and medical decisions. At times an injury may have been unpreventable. However, many injuries can be prevented if the caregivers acted differently in response to developing problems. When that happens, medical malpractice may have been committed.

In late June, one of the largest medical malpractice verdicts in Maryland was handed down by a Baltimore City jury against Johns Hopkins Hospital along with Johns Hopkins Health Systems Corp. The jury awarded the family of a child born with cerebral palsy and seizure disorder $55 Million.

The case stems from what was expected to be an emergency Caesarean section, but various medical mistakes and doctor errors resulted in a wait of more than two hours. The child was born with permanent and severe mental and physical disabilities as a result of loss of oxygen to the brain during the wait. Johns Hopkins Hospital continues to dispute any doctor error or medical malpractice and indicated that they will appeal the verdict.

The $55 Million verdict included a $25 Million award for future medical expenses based upon a life-care plan, $4 Million for future lost wages, and $26 Million for non-economic damages including thing such as pain and suffering. Although the award will be reduced as a result of Maryland’s medical malpractice cap on damages, the actual award will still be around $30 Million.

A Buffalo, New York jury has awarded a couple $845,000 in a medical malpractice case against two obstetricians, after a three week trial. The plaintiffs claimed that the woman had to have an emergency hysterectomy after she started bleeding heavily after giving birth to a healthy son. The plaintiffs argued that the doctors should have hastened the mother’s labor, which lasted 20 plus hours, to prevent the bleeding.

I have successfully handled a number of serious injury cases in Baltimore and other counties in Maryland. Many of those medical malpractice / medical negligence / medical error cases involve birth injuries. A recent case that settled for a substantial sum involved almost exactly the same set of facts. A woman gave birth to a healthy child, after which she experienced substantial vaginal bleeding. The hospital, however, did not timely address the situation and, as a result, she lost so much blood that her blood stopped clotting properly. This is called Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (“DIC”) or Consumptive Coagulopathy. She eventually underwent emergency surgery which saved her life, but during the surgery doctors had to remove her uterus. This was a classic case of a woman slipping through the cracks of a hospital. Everybody knew what was going on, but no one assumed responsibility for the matter. The tragedy of this was that the woman was unable have children again as a result.

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