Fetus suffocates as Doctor is in Nurses’ Lounge; Family of Brain Damaged Child Recovers $6.5 Million

Mom was 38 years old when she was admitted to deliver her baby. She had an obstetrical history of a prior Caesarean section (C-section) delivery, intrauterine growth retardation, pregnancy-induced hypertension and a previous placental abruption. The defendants knew that Mom’s labour had to be carefully monitored, so an external electronic fetal heart monitor was applied to monitor the fetal heart. Initially, the monitor tracing was reassuring. When Mom was 4cm dilated, oxytocin was ordered to augment her labour. Variable decelerations began some time later, but the doctor did not attend to reassess her and gave no further orders.

The nurse began to have difficulty monitoring the fetal heart rate. She asked the doctor to attend to apply an internal scalp electrode to enable monitoring of the fetal heart. Oxytocin continued to be infused despite the inability to monitor the fetal heart. After multiple unsuccessful attempts to page the doctor, and over an hour after the fetal distress began, the nurses finally decided to page the doctor via the overhead paging system within the hospital.

The doctor had been in the nurses’ lounge for a half hour before the overhead page sounded. She had not attended to Mom for over 5 hours. Though the doctor claimed that the pager was on silent mode, the pager for the previous hour would have shown an icon of an envelope indicating that messages had been sent. The nurses did not attempt to contact another obstetrician to attend to Mom.

Within a minute of the overhead page, the doctor arrived to care for Mom. Six minutes later, the baby delivered spontaneously. He was flat with no spontaneous respiration or movement, and was diagnosed with perinatal depression and asphyxia. His brain injury was sustained as a result of hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy occurring in the hour prior to birth. He will require tube feeding for the duration of his life and is severely physically and cognitively disabled.

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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.