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Medical Verdicts


Fetus with gastroschisis delivered stillborn

February 2004 · Vol. 16, No. 2

<court>Du Page County (Ill) Circuit Court</court>

Results from a June 1998 ultrasound indicated that the fetus of a 20-year-old gravida had gastroschisis—a congenital condition in which a defect of the abdominal wall causes the intestines and certain organs to extrude outside the body while remaining connected internally.

From July to September, the woman’s physicians did not order any additional ultrasounds. In late September, a follow-up ultrasound performed by another obstetrician revealed a low amniotic fluid index and a fetal birth weight in the 3-percentile range. This physician sent the woman’s primary obstetricians a typed report, which arrived 2 days later.

After consulting with a perinatologist, the woman’s doctors advised her to have an induction of labor. On arrival at the hospital, an ultrasound showed no heartbeat. After labor induction, the stillborn infant was delivered.

In suing, the mother alleged her 2 primary obstetricians failed to communicate properly regarding what tests should monitor fetal growth. Further, they failed to advise her on how much fetal activity to expect and how to respond to decreased movement. In addition, she argued that the doctors failed to order a stat ultrasound and did not appropriately follow up with the physician who performed the late-September ultrasound. She also maintained that the third obstetrician was obligated to telephone her primary Ob/Gyns with the portentous findings. She contended that the fetus died as a result of cord compression and that delivery a few days prior would have saved the baby’s life.

The lead obstetricians claimed the pregnancy appeared normal and the patient was advised of how to determine proper fetal activity. The third physician argued that ultrasound findings prior to fetal demise were within the normal range for a fetus with gastroschisis.

  • The jury returned a defense verdict.

The cases presented here were compiled by Lewis L. Laska, editor of Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts (www.verdictslaska.com). 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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