birth injury physician error or hospital negligence

In medical malpractice cases, there are typically several parties that could be held accountable. In some situations, what may initially look like an error on the doctor’s part could actually be an error on the part of a hospital.

A Pennsylvania doctor found himself in that situation. A 34-year-old arrived at the hospital suffering from complications that caused her unborn baby to be deprived of oxygen. The doctor knew that it was critical to deliver the baby as soon as possible, but when the doctor performed an ultrasound, he couldn’t hear the baby’s heartbeat.

The doctor concluded that the baby died from lack of oxygen. The doctor did everything correctly, but his conclusion was wrong — the baby was still alive. A Philadelphia jury concluded that the hospital was negligent for using antiquated equipment and failing to provide a trained ultrasound technician.

Another ultrasound was performed a short time later, and when the doctor learned the baby was alive, he immediately performed an emergency cesarean section. The baby survived the complications, but he now suffers from cerebral palsy.

The mother filed a medical malpractice suit and was awarded $78.5 million when the jury determined that the Pennsylvania hospital where the baby was born used faulty diagnostic procedures. The attorney the mother worked with concluded that the delay between the first and second ultrasound and the delivery of the baby caused the fetus to deteriorate. If the doctor had been able to deliver the baby after the first ultrasound, the 81-minute delay could have been avoided, and the baby would likely have suffered less severe injuries.

The $78.5 million the Pennsylvania mother was awarded is intended to help her pay for future medical care for the child, lost earnings, the baby’s pain and suffering, and the emotional distress she suffered.

Source: Philadelphia Inquirer, “Phila. jury awards $78.5M in medical malpractice case,” Chris Mondics, May 6, 2012

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