Baby Asphyxiates under Watch of Nurse who was Unable to Interpret a Test — Family of Brain Damaged Baby Settles for $4.2 Million Dollars

A Brampton mother and her disabled child have recovered $4.2 million dollars in damages after an Etobicoke area hospital and its staff caused permanent damage to her fetus through negligently-induced labour and a serious failure to manage what was known to be a high-risk delivery.

Mom’s blood pressure (BP) became elevated about one month before she was expected to deliver. A couple of weeks later, she had gained seven pounds in one week, was experiencing headaches and had swelling in her hands and feet. These are all symptoms of pre-eclampsia, or high BP. These symptoms require ongoing monitoring of both Mom and her fetus since they can mean quick and unpredictable deterioriation.

Mom was admitted to the hospital and daily non-stress tests, to check the condition of the fetus, were ordered. Her BP was elevated on admission at 130/90. Mom was not stabilized despite evidence that her liver, renal and coagulation functions were abnormal. There were no notations of the disorders and no action was taken. Later that day, the non-stress test performed by a nurse was abnormal, and required immediate attention, but the nurse did not know how to interpret a non-stress test, and the abnormal results were not brought to the attention of the doctor. Moreover, the doctor did not inquire about the outcome of the non-stress test or attend to review the test he himself had ordered. When blood and urine results were found to be abnormal, laboratory personnel called to notify the nursing staff, but again the doctor was not notified of the abnormal results. A nurse telephoned the doctor about the patient’s complaint of headache and the doctor gave an order over the phone for Tylenol.

Mom’s BP was soon 155/109, but still the doctor had neither assessed his patient nor reviewed the charts or non-stress test strip by the end of the day and Mom was admitted. Mom began to experience upper abdominal pain. This is a serious sign of late-stage pre-eclampsia when combined with elevated BP, headache and edema. Again the doctor was not notified. The headache persisted and Mom’s BP was still high at 145/96. No nurse assessed the patient’s blood pressure or symptomology until early the next morning, when headache and edema were still present. This was when the doctor saw Mom for the first time. He did not review her chart or the non-stress test performed the day before. Instead, he ran a monitor tracing for about 4 minutes and attempted to induce labour with prostaglandin gel, which should never be done without first assessing fetal well-being. This caused hyperstimulation of the uterus and persistent bradycardia. The doctor should have then assessed Mom and her fetus, administered anticonvulsant medications and performed fluid hydration before expediting the delivery.

Following this, the FHR variability flattened and decelerations began. Persistent bradycardia followed. The doctor ruptured the membranes and found meconium to be present, a symptom of a distressed fetus in great danger. An emergency Caesarean section was ordered.

The baby was delivered not breathing and with no heartbeat. The baby was seriously compromised with metabolic acidosis, hypoxemia and had clearly asphyxiated, coupled with profound physical disability. The child had constant seizures, is virtually blind and is dependent in all aspects of daily living.

Sommers Roth & Elmaleh Professional Corporation has over 40 years of experience in medical malpractice litigation in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Ontario, and across Canada.

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The above information is not legal advice. Past results of cases and recoveries by our medical malpractice lawyers against hospitals, doctors, midwives, nurses and other healthcare professionals are not necessarily indicative of future results. The amounts recovered and other litigation outcomes will vary according to the facts in individual cases.