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Medical Staff And Family Of Baby With Brain Injury Settle Claim For More Than $1.0 Million
The fetus requires a continuous blood supply to receive the necessary nutrients and oxygen. When a pregnant woman has significant vaginal bleeding late in pregnancy, there is a risk that it is due to placental abruption, a condition in which the placenta detaches from the woman’s uterus prematurely, resulting in the rupture of blood vessels in the uterus. areas and depriving the fetus of the necessary oxygen.
As such, medical professionals must properly determine the cause of the bleeding and its impact on the fetus. When the bleeding is also accompanied by an abnormal fetal heartbeat, an emergency caesarean section may be necessary. If this does not happen, the baby could suffer from severe lifelong disabilities or even die. Consider, for example, the following reported case.
In the 39th week of pregnancy, the expectant mother felt a stream of colorless liquid leaving her and went to the hospital. Once at the hospital, the staff examined her and put her on a fetal heart rate monitor. Approximately 7 and a half hours after admission, she experienced bleeding from the vagina. In fact, the doctor in charge of her care noticed that the blood was bright red in color. When checking the fetal heart rate monitor, the doctor found that it was not reactive, but instead of switching to an internal monitor to more accurately determine the fetal heart rate, the doctor instead decided to simply continue to watch her progress. Ultrasound failed to reveal the cause of the bleeding. And instead of appreciating the importance of bleeding as a sign of placental abruption, the doctor concluded that it was simply a sign of progressing labor.
Within 45 minutes, staff noticed a slowing of the fetus’s heart rate. After another 10 minutes the monitor strips were suspicious of worsening fetal distress. Instead of checking the pH of the fetal head to better determine the condition of the fetus or simply performing an emergency C-section, the doctor and staff resumed the observation period. After another 10 minutes, the nurse noticed the fetal heart rate slowing down to 50. Only at that moment did they attempt the first intervention by moving the mother and releasing oxygen. The mother-to-be then experienced another wave of bleeding, and the fetal heart rate monitor showed constant decelerations. Even with these ominous signs, it took the nurse another five minutes before calling the doctor. Despite the presence of these problems, no additional measures have been taken at this time.
An additional twenty minutes passed and now another wave of bleeding occurred. Until then, the fetal heart rate monitor had shown average to minimal variability. Within half an hour, despite the presence of bleeding, the woman was placed on an epidural. After another 40 minutes, the first doctor was replaced by another. Still no action was taken, even though the fetal heart rate still included deceleration with a late component, and the woman continued to bleed. The baby was finally delivered vaginally just over two hours later.
At birth, the baby had difficulty breathing and showed a weak to moderate response. Cord blood pH was recorded as acidic. In addition, the amniotic fluid contained meconium. These are all signs that the baby was in trouble. A pediatrician was consulted and after it was determined that the baby had a lack of oxygen, the baby was intubated. Indeed, the delay in delivery led to a prolonged period of oxygen deprivation which in turn caused severe neurological injury. At the age of five, the baby had a significant disability. He couldn’t crawl or even sit up unaided. He was legally blind. He had kidney damage and needed a transplant. And he showed cognitive delays.
The parents filed a lawsuit on behalf of the child naming two doctors and nurses as defendants. The law firm that represented the family was able to report that they reached a $1.2 million settlement on behalf of the family.
As this case demonstrates, a child can suffer devastating permanent injuries if the placental abruption occurs while the mother is in labor and the doctors and nurses in charge of care do not take immediate action. Although in this case the staff performed an ultrasound that did not reveal the presence of placental abruption, no effort was made to determine the source of the bleeding and the worrisome changes in the fetal heart rate. It is almost as if once the initial signs were dismissed, the medical staff were locked into a single perspective from which to interpret all subsequent developments. As a result, everything that happened was considered part of the normal birthing process. In a medical situation, fixation on a certain interpretation can, as in the case examined above, lead to a tragic outcome.
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