Ambulance transfer results in delivery and injury to the infant

November 1, 2010

In 2003, a 28-year-old Florida woman was 25 weeks pregnant when she went to the hospital emergency room complaining of lower abdominal pressure.

The patient sued those involved with her care in the emergency room at the first hospital and in the ambulance. She claimed that she had not been properly examined before she was transferred and that the ambulance was inadequately equipped for the situation. She also claimed that she was inappropriately administered morphine during the delivery and argued that the infant was not properly cared for after birth.

The doctors and hospitals involved in the woman's evaluation and transfer reached a combined pretrial settlement with her for $1.4 million. The matter went to trial against only the ambulance service, which claimed that they were responding to the physician's decision to transfer the patient and that they were more of a hospital taxi service. They also claimed that the survival rate of a child delivered at 25 weeks was only about 60% and that his cerebral palsy was the result of an intracranial hemorrhage and prematurity. They claimed that appropriate treatment had been given to the infant.

An interesting issue in this case is the responsibility and exposure to liability of the ambulance company. The jury decided that the company had been negligent in its response to the delivery and care of the premature infant and returned a $10 million verdict against the ambulance service. An appeal filed by the company in defense of their actions in caring for the infant is pending on the basis of the possible applicability of the Good Samaritan Act.

Ms Collins is an attorney specializing in medical malpractice in Long Beach, California. Send your feedback about this column to contemporaryobgyn_advanstar_com