Holdup On The Part Of Doctor And Nurse Leads To Infant's Brain Damage
Any of numerous problems can severely restrict the amount of oxygen reaching an unborn baby When this occurs the baby is said to be in fetal distress
. In the event that the baby loses necessary oxygen for an extended time frame the baby can die or suffer lifelong impairment such as brain damage, cerebral palsy, blindness, and seizure disorders. After an expectant mother is admitted for labor and delivery doctors and nurses are expected to carefully follow her and her unborn baby and they are supposed to possess enough knowledge, training and experience necessary to detect and react to signs of fetal distress.
The following case illustrates what can happen.
A pregnant woman was admitted to the hospital for labor and delivery. The doctor had not yet arrived at the hospital and therefore she was given an examination by a nurse who detected both the presence of meconium in the amniotic fluid as well as abnormal readings from the fetal heart rate monitor. The heart rate tracings suggested that the unborn baby was in fetal distress. The nurse advised the physician. Having received the information the physician still chose to hold off going to the hospital. He failed to ask that another physician take over and instead let the nurse disconnect the fetal heart rate monitor, the one vital technology that could give information about the condition of the baby.
In all, the physician failed to make it to the hospital for nearly 7 hours. When the doctor examined the woman the physician simply turned her care over to another physician to cover. Upon learning of the nurses findings that physician performed an emergency C-section. The damage had already been done. The child now had brain damage. The newborn had gone through a prolonged period of oxygen deprivation and had suffered brain damage by the time the covering physician performed the C-section. As a result of the brain damage, the child will experience permanent impairments that include both mental as well as physical retardation, the use of a feeding tube, and a seizure disorder. The law firm that represented the family was able to report after the trial the jury returned a verdict of $7,200,000 (including interest).
As this case demonstrates occassionally doctors and nurses fail to act with the immediacy corresponding to the risk that certain labor complications present. What occurred in the lawsuit discussed above is beyond comprehension. First, after being informed of several abnormal signs by the nurse the physician not only decided to hold off on going to the hospital but actually directed the nurse to disconnect the monitor. It is almost as if the physician did not want to be told of complications.
The nurse might have notified another physician of the situation. Rather, the nurse deferred to the doctors rank and authority. After finally arriving at the hospital and seeing the expectant mother the doctor turned over her care to a different doctor. Unfortunately, even though by all signs the other doctor acted correctly, it was too late to prevent irreversible harm to the infant.
An unborn child is at risk of severe and permanent harm when physicians and nurses fail to take immediate action when confronted with signs of fetal distress. The claim moreover reveals that when this happens these physicians and nurses may be held accountable for not taking correct actions and hence not meeting the standard of care. This is the level of professional responsibility to which we hold doctors and nurses. When they fall short and their actions or lack of actions result in harm to a baby they might be subject to a medical malpractice claim. Because of the severity of the harm to the child the compensation from such claims can be substantial.
by: Joseph Hernandez
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