Legal: Delay in OR blamed for cerebral palsy

Cerebral palsy due to delay in the operating room?

An Illinois woman presented to a hospital in labor in late 1999 at 2 days past her due date. She had received prenatal care from her family physician. She was given oxytocin and about 9 hours later an arrest of descent was noted with some decelerations and decreased variability of the FHR. An obstetrician mentioned possible cesarean section at that time but recommended continuing labor for another hour to see if she would progress. Shortly after this, however, uterine hyperstimulation with fetal tachycardia began and a C/S was decided upon.

The infant was delivered about 50 minutes after this decision was made. The infant suffered hypoxic ischemic brain injury and was diagnosed with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. He is wheelchair-bound, requires a G-tube for feeding, has normal cognitive abilities, and can communicate with sophisticated technology.

In the lawsuit that followed this delivery, the claim was that the nursing staff failed to turn off the oxytocin and failed to have an operating room ready in a timely manner, as the delivery was about 50 minutes after the decision to perform a C/S was made.

Department editor DAWN COLLINS, JD, is an attorney specializing in medical malpractice in Long Beach, CA. She welcomes feedback on this column via e-mail to