Alleged negligence in delivery and resuscitation of newborn

April 17, 2008

In 2001, a New York woman was in labor when she became pale, began to cough, and then became cyanotic. Fetal distress was noted and it was thought that the patient may have suffered a pulmonary embolism or an amniotic fluid embolism. An emergency cesarean section was performed, and the infant was severely depressed with no respiratory effort, reflexes, or tone. He was also bradycardic and was suctioned, bagged, and then intubated. The infant had muscle twitches and spasms, was transferred to another hospital, and was noted to be severely hypotonic, requiring multiple boluses of anti-seizure medication within the first 24 hours of life to control seizure activity. He was hospitalized for about 2 months and was discharged with a diagnosis of hypoxic encephalopathy, seizures, and cerebral palsy.

In 2001, a New York woman was in labor when she became pale, began to cough, and then became cyanotic. Fetal distress was noted and it was thought that the patient may have suffered a pulmonary embolism or an amniotic fluid embolism. An emergency cesarean section was performed, and the infant was severely depressed with no respiratory effort, reflexes, or tone. He was also bradycardic and was suctioned, bagged, and then intubated. The infant had muscle twitches and spasms, was transferred to another hospital, and was noted to be severely hypotonic, requiring multiple boluses of anti-seizure medication within the first 24 hours of life to control seizure activity. He was hospitalized for about 2 months and was discharged with a diagnosis of hypoxic encephalopathy, seizures, and cerebral palsy.

The patient sued, claiming that the emergency C/S should have been performed sooner, further alleging that the infant was not properly resuscitated after delivery. She also claimed a neonatologist should have been present at delivery and that sodium bicarbonate was not given soon enough to reverse metabolic acidosis.

The defense argued the infant was in serious condition when delivered and was resuscitated immediately and properly. The neonatologist maintained she was not called until after delivery and that an order for sodium bicarbonate was given soon after delivery, but it was not given for almost an hour. A $7.3 million settlement was reached. This included $5 million from the hospital and $2.3 million from the neonatologist.

—Department Editor Dawn Collins, JDMs. Collins is an attorney specializing in medical malpractice in Long Beach, CA.
She welcomes feedback on this column via email to DawnCF@aol.com.