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Medical Verdicts


Blind amniocentesis leads to 19 punctures, fetal demise

November 2003 · Vol. 15, No. 11

<court>Pima County (Ariz) Superior Court</court>

A 21-year-old gravida unsure of her due date underwent an ultrasound examination, which revealed that she was between 36 and 37 weeks’ gestation. The following day, the woman went into labor.

The doctor ordered an amniocentesis to confirm fetal lung maturity. He twice attempted to conduct a blind amniocentesis, but both times failed to obtain amniotic fluid. On the third try he pulled blood-tinged amniotic fluid.

Within the hour, monitoring revealed fetal distress. An emergency cesarean was performed, but the child died 36 hours after birth. An autopsy revealed that the baby’s brain was punctured 19 times by the amniocentesis needle.

The parents sued, claiming that during the first 2 amniocentesis attempts the doctor “fished” around in the mother’s belly for the amniotic fluid pocket. They argued that attempting a blind amniocentesis when ultrasound was available was below the standard of care.

  • The parties settled before trial for a confidential sum.

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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