Undiagnosed genetic condition associated with infants’ brain damage
<court>Milwaukee County (Wis) Circuit Court</court>
Upon presenting to her obstetrician, a gravida expressed concern about intracranial hemorrhage. A number of years earlier, she had given birth to a child with severe intracranial hemorrhaging, and that child had died at the age of 7.
The obstetrician referred the patient to a geneticist, who determined there would be no complications with the current pregnancy. However, an ultrasound at 37 to 38 weeks’ gestation revealed fetal intracranial hemorrhaging. She underwent a cesarean delivery, and the baby was born with severe brain damage.
In suing the obstetrician and geneticist, the woman claimed her infants’ brain hemorrhages stemmed from a rare genetic condition that caused fetal platelet dysfunction. She argued that the condition is avoidable with intravenous treatments during pregnancy—in fact, using this therapy, the woman later delivered a healthy baby.
The obstetrician contended that the mother’s condition was so rare that diagnosis could not have been expected. She also pointed out that she had referred the patient to a geneticist. The geneticist maintained that the cause of the problem was unknown.
- The case settled at mediation with the geneticist and the Wisconsin Patient’s Compensation Fund for $7 million. The suit against the obstetrician was dropped.
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.