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Medical Verdicts

Bathroom visit linked to infant’s brain damage

April 2004 · Vol. 16, No. 4
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<court>Du Page County (I11) Circuit Court</court>

While in labor at a hospital, a pregnant woman got out of bed to go to the bathroom. The patient was not attached to a monitor at this time. While she was up, the unborn baby developed sudden bradycardia.

When the mother returned, nurses were unable to locate the infant’s heart tones. The woman was given an IV and oxygen, and turned from side to side in an effort to locate the baby’s heartbeat. An internal scalp electrode was started and the doctor was paged.

When the physician arrived, he reportedly performed a vaginal examination, administered terbutaline and informed the patient the delivery would require forceps. Upon delivery, the newborn had Apgar scores of 2 at 1 minute, 6 at 5 minutes, and 7 at 10 minutes. In follow-up, the infant was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

In suing, the family contended that the infant’s injury was due to the doctor’s failure to attend to the mother during labor. In addition, they claimed that nursing staff failed to inform the physician of ominous fetal monitoring strips in a timely fashion. Further, the family alleged that the mother should not have left the bed and that continuous fetal monitoring should have been used.

The doctor and hospital staff countered that the infant suffered an occult cord prolapse, and that the infant’s injuries would have occurred regardless of whether the mother left the bed or a monitor was attached.

  • The jury awarded the plaintiff $6.5 million against the hospital. A defense verdict for the doctor was returned.

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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