Articles Posted in Birth Injury

It is no secret that thousands of American patients die or are permanently and seriously injured by medical providers. More than 250,000 Americans die in hospitals every year due to medical errors. That staggering number makes deaths in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and long-term care centers the third most common cause of death in the United States. The number of Americans who die because of the negligent errors made by medical providers is higher than those who die because of respiratory disease, accidents, stroke and Alzheimer’s disease.

According to the study by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the causes of the deaths are not isolated to one common medical practice area.

The Johns Hopkins research involves a comprehensive analysis of four large studies. According to a report a year ago by the Washington Post, the Johns Hopkins report took into account studies from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department’s Office of the Inspector General and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality between 2000 to 2008. The calculation of 251,000 deaths in a year amounts to nearly 700 deaths a day — about 9.5 percent of all deaths annually in the United States.
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J.B. was 35 years old and in her 26th week of her third pregnancy when she developed a severe headache and abdominal cramping. J.B. called her treating obstetrician’s office and later spoke to an on-call physician. That doctor diagnosed a gastrointestinal issue and told J.B. that there was no need for her to go to the hospital.

About 14 hours later, J.B. suffered a stroke. She now suffers from cognitive impairment and paralysis in her right arm, leg and foot. She had been a factory worker earning about $37,000 a year, but now is unable to work at all.

J.B. and her husband sued the obstetrician and her practice, alleging that she chose not to take a full and appropriate history, which would have revealed that J.B.’s abdominal pain was located exclusively in her upper right quadrant, indicative of preeclampsia.

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When the government is the only defendant in a Federal Tort Claims Act, the statute of limitations is two years. It doesn’t matter whether the plaintiff — who is the injured party in a medical negligence case — was a minor at the time of the injury. The statute is clear in that it states that a claim accrues when the plaintiff discovers, or a reasonable person in the plaintiff’s position would have discovered, that she had in fact been injured by an act or omission attributable to the government. The issue in this case was when the two-year countdown started.

Tenille Wallace’s medical-malpractice claim was against two defendants — the federally funded Friend Family Health Center and a private institution, the University of Chicago Hospital. The case presented the 7th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals with a “new twist” on the usual scenario.

Wallace received prenatal care at the Friend Family Health Center. Her son, E.Y., had a troubled delivery and has been diagnosed as suffering from diplegic cerebral palsy. E.Y. was born at the University of Chicago Hospital on April 4, 2005.

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Ms. Doe, 17, experienced back and abdominal pain in her 34th week of the pregnancy. She was admitted to a local hospital where her condition deteriorated over the next several days.

Ms. Doe was then diagnosed as having sepsis and placed on a ventilator. After giving birth to her daughter, Ms. Doe’s respiratory status worsened, prompting a Code Blue. Despite efforts to resuscitate, she suffered a hypoxic brain injury resulting in cognitive impairment. Ms. Doe now requires 24-hour care and lives in a nursing home facility.

The lawsuit against the hospital claimed that the hospital’s respiratory therapists chose not to properly adjust Ms. Doe’s ventilator settings. It was alleged that the settings or the lack of the proper settings was the cause of Ms. Doe’s brain injury. The lawsuit did not claim lost income.

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Cynthia and Kenneth Williams’s first child was born with sickle cell anemia. After the birth of their first child, the Williamses found out that they both had the sickle cell trait in which a normal gene is paired with the allele that causes sickle-shaped hemoglobin.

Individuals who carry this sickle cell trait usually don’t have symptoms of the blood disorder because their normal gene creates functional hemoglobin. However, when a baby is born from parents who both have the sickle cell trait, there is a 25% chance of getting two of the abnormal genes and the full-blown sickle cell disease for the child.

The Williamses were unwilling to take a chance with a second baby, and Cynthia decided to have tubal ligation. However, Cynthia became pregnant again allegedly because her physician, Dr. Byron Rosner, failed to close off one of her fallopian tubes during the sterilization surgery.

The Williams’s second child was born with the sickle cell disease.

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A 34-year-old patient, Sally Arbogast, underwent a vaginal delivery but experienced sharp abdominal pain and moderate bleeding right afterward.  She had delivered her last child by a Cesarean section. The obstetrician who cared for her performed a manual exploration and curettage procedure to rule out uterine scar rupture and later diagnosed uterine atony — a loss of tone in the muscles in the uterus.  It has been noted that 90% of all postpartum bleedings are associated with uterine atony, which is the failure of the uterine muscles to contract normally after the baby and placenta are delivered.

For an hour and a half, Arbogast remained hypotensive and tachycardic. Her blood work showed lower hemoglobin and hematocrit levels compared to before the baby was born.

While the doctors were looking into the patient’s hypotension, she coded.  After resuscitation measures and a blood transfusion, Arbogast received multiple units of packed blood cells and fresh frozen plasma over the next five hours.

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The Illinois Appellate Court for the Fourth District reversed a jury’s verdict for defendants, which included OSF Healthcare System, in the Circuit Court of McLean County.  The case centered around an injury and subsequent death of a 3-year-old boy, Christian Rivera, in 2003. The jury trial was held in July 2011. 

During the trial, the family of Christian offered its expert witness, Dr. Finley Brown, to testify as a medical expert in family practice.

The defendants were allowed by the trial judge to cross-examine Dr. Brown for the issue related to his annual earnings as an expert witness for an 8-year period. Plaintiff’s counsel had argued against the broad timeframe, but the trial judge denied plaintiff’s motion to limit the timeframe. Defense used this testimony to say the jury that Dr. Brown was a “go-to guy for expert opinions.”

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In June 1991, Amanda Eckstein was born at Good Samaritan Hospital and delivered by defendant and obstetrician, Martin Gallo, M.D. In the plaintiff’s complaint, it was alleged that Dr. Gallo should have ordered a Cesarean section rather than a vaginal delivery with forceps. Ms. Eckstein alleged that there was evidence of her fetal distress on the fetal monitor strips, which should have prompted Dr. Gallo to order the C-section.

However, with the vaginal delivery, Amanda’s shoulder was hung up and caused shoulder dystocia, which lasted for approximately 5 minutes. Shoulder dystocia occurs in the delivery room when a child’s head is delivered, but the shoulder gets caught on the mother’s pelvis. Amanda was born without a heart rate and no respiratory rate for more than 5 minutes.

It was contended by Amanda that she had been without oxygen and suffered a permanent brachial plexus injury/Erb’s palsy to her left shoulder because of the doctor’s negligence. Erb’s palsy is nerve damage or resulting weakness to the baby’s upper group of the arm’s nerves.

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The Missouri Supreme Court has found that the statute that limits noneconomic damages in medical malpractice cases to $350,000 unlawfully infringes on a jury’s constitutional right to determine the amount of damage that a person has sustained from medical negligence.

In this Missouri case, Deborah Watts filed suit for medical negligence against the hospital and others alleging that her son suffered catastrophic brain injuries because of hospital and medical providers’ negligence. Ms. Watts went to Cox Medical Center at 39 weeks of pregnancy after she felt cramping and decreased fetal movement. No diagnostic tests were completed, and she was sent home. When she returned two days later, she was this time placed on a fetal heart tracing monitor. More than an hour later, her son Naython was delivered by Caeserean section. Unfortunately, Naython suffered catastrophic brain injuries.

The jury awarded $1.45 million in noneconomic damages and $3.371 million in future medical damages. However, because of the Missouri statute capping noneconomic damages, the trial judge reduced the noneconomic award to $350,000. Ms. Watts appealed, arguing that the statute violates the right to trial by jury and other violations of the state constitution.

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A hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit is the triumph of modern medicine’s investment in technology, pharmacy and know-how, says Dr. Rahul K. Parikh, a pediatrician in Walnut Creek, Calif. Dr. Parikh wrote an essay published in a recent edition of the New York Times.

Dr. Parikh points out that babies born somewhere between 23 and 26 weeks of gestation, or what’s called the limit of viability, are placed in the NICU. In the 1960s, when the first NICUs opened, premature infants had a 95 percent chance of dying. Today, they have a 95 percent chance of survival.

Now we face a difficult choice, Dr. Parikh says, one not unlike that facing physicians who take care of adults near the end of their life: whom to fight for and whom to let go. The decision says volumes about how we have come to regard the tiniest, frailest of patients.

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