The RCMP and health authorities at Moncton City Hospital in New Brunswick are currently examining a series of emergency caesarean section (“C-section”) procedures after an internal investigation revealed “strong evidence” that a nurse may have administered Oxytocin, a powerful and potentially dangerous labour-inducing drug, to two patients without a prescription or their consent.
According to available reports, the hospital had noticed a spike in the frequency of emergency operative deliveries over a two-year period but had been unable to determine a cause until a doctor at the hospital expressed concerns about a specific nurse in the labour and delivery unit two weeks ago. After a patient required an emergency C-section, the doctor alerted the hospital to suspicions that the nurse may have inappropriately administered Oxytocin. Investigators examined IV bags from the case and discovered puncture marks, and further testing also found traces of the drug. After examining security footage from the hospital, the nurse in question was fired and the hospital alerted the Nurses Association of New Brunswick.
Criminal Investigation Now Looking into as Many as 120 Inappropriate Deliveries
Horizon Health Network (HHN), which operates the hospital, is now working with the RCMP to investigate over one hundred emergency C-section procedures, looking for similar evidence. HHN has notified the parents involved in the two known cases, and has also released a statement to patients, advising them of their investigation and findings to date. The hospital has further confirmed that both patients involved in the initial investigation delivered healthy babies and are doing fine, thanks to the quick reactions of other staff and physicians at the hospital.
“High-Alert Medication” Can Lead to Serious Risk of Harm if Not Properly Monitored
Oxytocin is used to induce labour in situations where it is deemed medically necessary, however, patients must be carefully monitored as it carries a number of risks. Labour induction can cause a baby’s heart rate to drop significantly, as a result of and asphyxia or hypoxia (lack of oxygen), or cause the mother to experience severe bleeding after delivery if the uterine muscles don’t properly contract. In rare cases, it can even cause the uterus to rupture, which is life-threatening to the mother and baby and may require removal of the uterus.
The case described above is doubly worrisome because not only were the patients not consulted and therefore could not consent to the administration of Oxytocin, but the physicians involved were also not aware, and consequently did not undertake the standard precautions and monitoring involved in labour induction. At this point it is unknown how many mothers and babies were affected by this dangerous drug. It is unknown how many babies sustained brain injury (or birth injury) caused by a lack of oxygen. Parents whose children have cerebral palsy or spent extended time in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) with diagnoses of Perinatal asphyxia, Encephalopathy (HIE), seizures, should consider investigating the circumstances that led to their child’s condition and impairments.
How a Medical Malpractice Lawyer Can Help
While the nurse in this case will ultimately be held responsible both legally and professionally should the results of the investigation warrant it, this would be of little comfort or assistance to any patient who may have suffered injury or trauma as a result of the nurse’s actions. Children with brain injuries can seek compensation to pay for medications, therapies, treatments and other lifelong expenses.
Patients who suspect that they’ve been the victim of a similar violation should consult with a medical malpractice lawyer to determine their options. Depending on the specific circumstances, patients and their families could be entitled to significant compensation including damages to cover the injury itself, compensation for expenses related to the injury, and any costs of future care if necessary.
The highly experienced medical malpractice lawyers at Sommers Roth & Elmaleh in Toronto have helped hundreds of families whose lives have been affected by complications caused by improper medical care, including obstetrical malpractice or hospital error. Contact Sommers Roth & Elmaleh by phone at 416-961-1212 or online to schedule a free consultation.
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