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Medical Verdicts


Did delayed cesarean result in brain injury?

August 2003 · Vol. 15, No. 8

<court>Cook County (Ill) Circuit Court</court>

Presenting with irregular contractions, a woman was admitted to the hospital. A fetal heart monitor was placed and nurses monitored her throughout the day. At 3:30 PM, the fetal heart rate began to decelerate.

At 8:10 PM, the obstetrician called the nurses; he was told that the mother was not in labor and that fetal heart tones were normal. He ordered the fetal monitor discontinued.

The following morning, the obstetrician visited the patient, who had not been seen by a physician since her admission. Following this examination, he delivered the infant via cesarean. At birth, the infant had low Apgar scores, no breathing, cyanosis, and hypoxic ischemia. The child suffers from severe cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and spastic quadriplegia.

In suing, the mother claimed that hospital staff failed to alert the doctor to the fetal heart rate decelerations. She also contended that the doctor should have performed the cesarean earlier.

The hospital maintained that the nursing staff treated the patient appropriately and relayed relevant information to the doctor. Further, the monitor showed variable decelerations, indicative of umbilical cord compression, not uteroplacental insufficiency. The hospital claimed the infant’s brain injury occurred 24 to 72 hours prior to the mother’s admission.

  • The jury awarded the plaintiff $20.25 million from the hospital, but returned a defense verdict for the defendant obstetrician. A high/low agreement reached during deliberations yielded $19 million from both the hospital and physician.

The cases presented here were compiled by Lewis L. Laska, editor of Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts. While there are instances when the available information is incomplete, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation.

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