Legal: Alleged negligent management of nonreassuring FHR

May 1, 2008

Alleged negligent management of nonreassuring FHR

An Illinois woman was admitted to a hospital several days past her due date for induction of labor. The FHR tracing was reassuring and oxytocin was started. Later in the day, a FHR deceleration occurred and she was found to be completely dilated and began pushing. After about 4 hours, delivery occurred and the infant was severely depressed with Apgar scores of 0 and 0, at both 1 and 5 minutes. It took 12 minutes of resuscitation to get a heart rate, and the infant was later diagnosed as having suffered severe asphyxia. He was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia and requires 24 hour care.

In the lawsuit that followed, the patient alleged negligence in the response to fetal distress and a failure to perform a cesarean delivery.

The defense argued that the brain damage was due to a prenatal viral infection and that the fetal heart tracings did not indicate fetal distress. A $18 million settlement was reached, with the hospital contributing $14.5 million, the obstetrician and her employer paying $1 million each, and the labor and delivery nurse's employer paying $1.5 million.