Failure to diagnose preeclampsia
A MOTHER CALLED HER OBGYN at 34 weeks’ gestation with complaints of a headache, swelling, and weight gain. The ObGyn prescribed Tylenol. The next morning, the mother was found unconscious on her kitchen floor. She was taken to the emergency department (ED), where she underwent a cesarean delivery and brain surgery. The child, born prematurely, suffered a stroke that resulted in brain damage and cerebral palsy (CP).
PARENTS’ CLAIM The ObGyn should have immediately evaluated the mother when she called with a headache. Failure to recognize eclampsia led to severe hypertension.
PHYSICIAN’S DEFENSE When the mother called the ObGyn, she reported a headache and diarrhea, and asked if it was all right to take Tylenol. The ObGyn claimed she asked the mother several questions and the mother’s answers included that the headache was not severe and that she’d had it for a few hours. The mother denied blurred vision, abdominal or uterine pain, and reported that she was not vomiting. The ObGyn believed that the mother had a virus and recommended Tylenol. The fetus’ stroke had occurred the day prior to the mother’s eclamptic episode.
VERDICT At first, a Pennsylvania defense verdict was returned. After an appeal, the second trial resulted in a $3.75 million verdict.