The term medical malpractice may invoke imagines of doctors failing to perform their duties consistent with a reasonable standard of care. However, some may not think about the wider group of personnel involved in medical care, particularly in a hospital setting. Not only are doctors subject to malpractice claims, but nurses are as well, since nurses are also expected to perform with a certain standard of care with patients.
In January 2014, a jury awarded $32 million to a girl born with brain damage as a result of the negligence of two of the nurses at the hospital during the birth. It is reportedly one of the highest jury award in state history. The trial lasted about two weeks, and the jury included eight men and four women. The hospital does have the option to appeal the decision, although nothing in that regard has yet been done.
Birth Injury Case
Lily Ciechoski, now 4 years old, suffers from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, caused by brain damage suffered during her birth. The baby’s heart rate dropped dramatically most likely as a result of a problem with the umbilical cord, which failed to allow sufficient oxygen to reach her brain. The Lily’s mother testified that while the two defendant nurses observed this decrease in heart rate, they did not notify the doctor when it occurred. It was not for another 12-13 minutes until the doctor entered the mother’s room that she immediately discovered the problem and immediately moved to perform an emergency cesarean section to bring the baby out. However, as the mother testified, staff could not locate a supervisor for several more minutes, and could not locate an anesthesiologist for another several minutes after that. Thus the baby was delivered well over a half an hour since her heart rate dropped. Expert testimony revealed that had they been able to deliver Lily 15-17 minutes earlier than her actual time of birth, the brain damage would have been minimal or may not have even occurred. However, the extended time of oxygen deprivation and the drop in heart rate led to the permanent damage.
Lily’s condition now limits her ability to move, as she must cope with frequent spasms in her arms, legs and neck. She struggles to talk and to walk. While nothing can change circumstances for Lily in this horrible case where a matter of 15 minutes may have been the difference, the $32 million award will assist her in paying for medical needs throughout her life.
It is terrifying to think about anything going wrong with a birth, but unfortunately it takes tragic cases like this one to remind us of the risks associated with medical procedures and practices. It is also a reminder that not only doctors, but entire staffs are expected to conform to reasonable standards of care. For those who have given birth to children with medical conditions that may have been caused by the negligence of doctors, nurses or any other hospital personnel, it is important to know what your options are and that malpractice law also applies to childbirths like any other medical procedure. Such suits can never change the damage, but can give victims the resources so they can get the support they need as they live their lives.
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