In Northern California, there is a 3-year-old little girl who is blind. She has to be fed through a tube in her stomach. She suffers seizures. She cannot walk or talk or take care of herself. It’s not likely she’ll ever be able to do those things, and most likely, she will die an early death.
The situation is heartbreaking, and made even worse by the fact her family asserts her condition was caused by a doctor who waited far too long to order a Cesarean section for the mother when she was in labor with the girl in 2012.
Now, in a bench trial at a U.S. District Court in Sacremento, a federal judge ruled the physician did indeed wait too long before initiating a C-section. This was in light of the fact that the fetus’s heart rate was worsening and there was little chance her mother was going to be able to deliver the child vaginally.
In addition to finding defendant OBGYN liable for medical malpractice, he awarded $9.6 million in damages to the girl and her families. That sum includes money for an around-the-clock vocational nurse to care for the girl for the rest of her life, as well as $250,000 for emotional stress to the mother during delivery.
The problem with delayed C-sections is that it may lead to a lack of oxygen that can result in conditions like cerebral palsy or infant brain damage. It may also increase the risk of physical injuries and could cause a host of developmental delays. This case was perhaps the worst case scenario, outside of death.
Although medical guidelines generally call for doctors to wait as long as possible before initiating a C-section, there are clear signs that indicate an emergency C-section is necessary. These include:
- Fetal distress
- No progress in labor
- Umbilical cord prolapse
- Uterine ruptures
- Placental eruption, placental insufficiency or placental previa
- Pregnancy of twins or multiples
While some birth injuries may not be preventable, the issue of medical malpractice is not whether there were poor health outcomes, but whether the doctor acted within the accepted standard of care for his or her profession, given the circumstances.
In a situation where minutes can be critical, any delay in action by a doctor can result in lifelong injury or death. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology usually recommends that most emergency C-sections take place within a half hour from the time the decision for surgery is made. However, it should be noted in some cases, for example umbilical cord prolapse, bradycardia (very slow heart rate) and uterine rupture in which the surgery has to be performed much sooner, or else there is grave risk of serious injury to the child and mother.
This case posed particular challenges for plaintiff because the doctor was employed by a federally-funded health clinic. That meant she had to bring the case against the U.S. government, which was also the reason why it was filed in federal court. Now, the federal government has been found liable for the doctor’s negligence.
Call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.
Avenal family gets $9.6 million for botched birth of baby, Nov. 2, 2015, Staff Report, The Fresno Bee
More Blog Entries:
Florida Playground Injuries Result in Thousands of E.R. Visits, July 11, 2015, Fort Myers Child Injury Lawyer Blog