Articles Posted in Pediatric (child) Medical Malpractice

After two weeks of testimony, a medical malpractice jury in Arkansas awarded $46.5 million to a toddler whose family alleged that her doctors’ negligence resulted in catastrophic and irreversible brain damage.  The family alleged that the doctors failed to properly manage and treat the newborn baby’s jaundice following birth which led to the development of kernicterus in the child’s brain.  Kernicterus is a rare brain damage that occurs in a newborn experiencing severe jaundice.  It can be prevented by treating jaundice early.

Jaundice is a yellow discoloration in a newborn baby’s skin and eyes.  The condition results from an excess amount of bilirubin, a yellow-colored pigment of red blood cells, in the blood.  A high bilirubin level associated with severe infant jaundice or inadequately treated jaundice can result in brain damage, as it did in this case.  According to the family’s medical malpractice lawyers, the infant’s initial blood test demonstrated elevated levels of bilirubin, but no follow up blood testing was done and no phototherapy lights to treat the jaundice were administered.  The reason, the lawyers say, is because the child’s bilirubin levels, which were tested at 2 hours after birth, were compared against those which are normal for a two-day old child.  Death or brain damage caused by the failure to treat high levels of bilirubin in newborns is considered a “never event” in the healthcare industry, meaning it should never happen because it is identifiable, preventable and serious.

As a result of the brain damage suffered by the child, she is “locked into a body that won’t work” as she will not be able to walk, talk, feed herself, or care for herself independently, though she has normal cognitive function.

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.

A Hartford, Connecticut boy’s family has filed a medical malpractice suit against his pediatrician, alleging that the doctor’s failure to timely diagnose the child’s bacterial meningitis lead to the 7-year-old losing his eyesight.

The boy went to his pediatrician complaining of severe headaches. However, this symptom went unnoticed and he was diagnosed with an ear infection, the first of several medical errors. He returned to the doctor when his condition did not improve but was sent away by a receptionist who said there was nothing more the office could do for him. When the child was finally sent for a CT scan, he was only diagnosed with a migraine. This was yet another medical mistake in the young boy’s care. This several day delay in diagnosis allowed the condition to worsen, and the infection to spread.

Bacterial meningitis is a potentially fatal condition where the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord become inflamed as result of a bacterial infection. The CDC has stated that early diagnosis is critical to the successful treatment of bacterial meningitis.

Recently, a New York District Judge ordered Mogen Circumcision Instruments of New York to pay compensatory and punitive damages totaling $10.8 million to a Florida boy and his parents following a medical instrument malfunction. Despite the instrument maker’s claims that injury arising from the use of their Mogen clamp was impossible, the boy lost a portion of his penis. This is not the first time Mogen has been at the center of a circumcision injury lawsuit. Mogen was involved in a 2007 Massachusetts lawsuit where it was forced to pay $7.5 million. In the current case, the baby lost the entire head (glans) of his penis. The judgment amount was based on the court’s determination the Mogen had to pay for both medical expenses and the years of therapy that the child will need.

Malpractice is sometimes to blame for circumcision mistakes and injuries as well. A jury in a 2009 case awarded $2.3 million to a baby and his parents after too much tissue was removed during his circumcision. Despite a nurse’s complaint of excessive bleeding, the baby’s pediatrician failed to respond; had he, the tip of the penis might have been reattached. As a result of the medical negligence, the baby lost a third of the glans of his penis. The New York jury found both the physician who performed the circumcision and the pediatrician negligent.

As an experienced Baltimore, Maryland medical malpractice lawyer, I have handled a number of medical malpractice cases involving injured children. Many of these cases involve psychological as well as physical injury and damage. They are extremely complicated and require expertise that most general personal injury attorneys do not have.

A Minnesota jury has awarded more than $1.25 million to the family of a 21 month old boy who died due to an infected (gangrenous) appendix that a doctor failed to diagnose and treat. The family claimed that the boy was misdiagnosed on two separate occasions over four days, including the day before he died.

The family alleged that when the doctor examined the boy’s abdomen, the boy cried louder than ever, but the doctor told the boy’s father that the boy’s appendix was fine. Thus, the doctor did not order an ultrasound or CT scan which would have diagnosed the problem. The doctor then diagnosed gastroenteritis. Evidence presented at trial established that the doctor scheduled pediatric patients in 10-minute increments. Thus, the family claimed that he was too busy to give each patient the attention they needed and deserved.

The doctor’s diagnosis of influenza was made over the phone and the family was discouraged from bringing the child into the clinic to be seen. That day, the doctor’s appointment schedule showed that 45 children were scheduled to be seen, and that the doctor was behind schedule.

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