Trial Of Lawsuit Over Baby's Cerebral Palsy Leads To $15.8 Million Verdict

09th July 2010
By J. Hernandez in Medical Malpractice
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Several complications can occur in the late stages of a pregnancy that may put the health of the unborn baby at risk. An umbilical cord compression is an especially significant risk to the unborn child. This problem comes up when excessive pressure is placed on the umbilical cord. Two situations that can lead to this complication include the compressing of the umbilical cord if the cord slips into the birth canal as the baby is descending and if the cord ends up wrapping itself around the neck of the baby. As the pressure on the cord rises, the oxygen necessary for the health and even the survival of the unborn child becomes more and more restricted.

If doctors or nurses notice a significant slowing down of the baby's heart rate they should consider a cord compression as a potential reason. This is specially true if the heart rate slows downs in waves or episodes - a pattern that is identified as decelerations. If the baby's heart rate drops too low and does not quickly return to normal immediate action needs to be takes to protect the baby from suffering brain damage or death due to the lack of oxygen. Sometimes it is possible to resolve the problem by simply repositioning the pregnant woman to lessen pressure on the cord, or by giving her oxygen and fluids These methods are not always successful in resolving the complication and reestablishing oxygen supply to the baby. In such cases, a physician may have to do an emergency C-section.

The failure on the part of a physician or nurse to identify the signs of a cord compression and to immediately take suitable action to resolve the situation or deliver the baby may lead to a medical malpractice claim. In one reported claim, an expectant mother, at full term, arrived at the hospital for the planned delivery of her baby. The staff administered Pitocin to induce labor. After the drug was given, the fetal heart rate monitor revealed a series of umbilical cord compressions as decelerations of the unborn baby's heart rate. The staff repositioned the progrant woman after which the baby's heart rate went back to normal.

Regrettably, when the woman requested to use the bathroom, the obstetrics resident disconnected the fetal heart rate monitor. It was discontinued for eleven minutes. These 11 minutes were vital. The cord became compressed reducing the baby's oxygen supply. The baby was born suffering from asphyxiation with resulting significant mental retardation and cerebral palsy.

The law firm which helped the family admitted evidence at trial that, with the history of decelerations, disconnecting the fetal heart rate monitor for those crucial 11 minutes was below the acceptable standard of care. Essentially, it came with too high a risk that there could be further umbilical cord compressions that would not be discovered and therefore would not, and indeed did not, lead to the application of additional procedures like more position changes and, if required, an emergency C-section that could have kept the child from suffering brain damage. The law firm published that the jury awarded $15.8 million for the family.

You can learn more about nuchal cord and other birth injury matters including group b strep and other types of birth injuries including erbs palsy by visiting the website
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