Failure to timely perform C/S results in cerebral palsy

April 17, 2008

A Massachusetts woman was pregnant with her third child in January 2000. Because the patient’s two prior pregnancies were complicated by prematurity and difficult deliveries, she wanted a cesarean delivery. A cerclage was placed and she went to term, but the obstetrician elected to induce her with oxytocin. The nurses noted frequent contractions with variable decelerations of the FHR. At delivery the infant was depressed, with Apgar scores of 2, 6, and 7. He required assisted ventilation and oxygen, began exhibiting seizures, and was transferred to a children’s hospital the following day. An MRI of the head at 6 days of age showed findings consistent with “hypoxic ischemic” encephalopathy. The child was subsequently diagnosed with cerebral palsy and cannot walk, talk, or sit unsupported. He requires a feeding tube and assistance with all aspects of daily living.

A Massachusetts woman was pregnant with her third child in January 2000. Because the patient’s two prior pregnancies were complicated by prematurity and difficult deliveries, she wanted a cesarean delivery. A cerclage was placed and she went to term, but the obstetrician elected to induce her with oxytocin. The nurses noted frequent contractions with variable decelerations of the FHR. At delivery the infant was depressed, with Apgar scores of 2, 6, and 7. He required assisted ventilation and oxygen, began exhibiting seizures, and was transferred to a children’s hospital the following day. An MRI of the head at 6 days of age showed findings consistent with “hypoxic ischemic” encephalopathy. The child was subsequently diagnosed with cerebral palsy and cannot walk, talk, or sit unsupported. He requires a feeding tube and assistance with all aspects of daily living.

The patient sued and claimed that signs of “fetal distress” were not recognized or responded to appropriately and claimed that the fetus suffered a prolonged lack of oxygen, resulting in his profound brain damage.

The defense argued that there was no evidence on the FHR monitor that warranted a CD. They claimed the fetus suffered injury prior to the patient’s arrival at the hospital. A $4.9 million settlement was reached.

—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.