Parents of a Severely Disabled Boy Recover $11.8 Million Due to the Delay in Recognizing Placental Abruption

The parents of a severely disabled boy recovered $11.8 million in a settlement with Oakville area hospital and the nurses due to a negligent delay in recognizing fetal distress as a result of placental abruption.

Mom, residing in Missisauga Ontario, attended regular antenatal visits with her family physician and her antenatal course was relatively uneventful until just over 35 weeks gestation. At this time, the 34-year-old Mom was diagnosed with pregnancy induced hypertension (PIH) and was prescribed a drug to control it.

At 37+ weeks’ gestation, Mom continued to have elevated blood pressure, even though she was on medication. Her family physician had her attend the hospital, where she was consulted by an Obstetrician, who admitted her. That night and into the following morning, Mom was experiencing abdominal pain and she told the attending nurse of this, who advised that they would “keep an eye on it”. In the morning, mom’s abdominal pain intensified and she began complaining of mild headaches. Mom vomited, and began experiencing hardness on one side of her abdomen. The nurses were made aware of all the symptoms which the mom was experiencing. A non-stress test (NST) was performed, which showed abnormal uterine activity, with a normal fetal heart rate at first. The NST continued for about 15 minutes, when there was a significant drop in the fetal heart rate (a deceleration), which lasted about 3 minutes. At this time, despite the very worrisome fetal heart rate tracing, the monitor was disconnected by the nurses.

Approximately 45 minutes after the significant fetal heart rate abnormalities presented during the NST, the nurse notified mom’s family physician of the vomiting and abdominal cramping but shockingly she did not inform Mom’s family physician (or the Obstetrician caring for her) about the fetal bradycardia or abnormal uterine pattern. It was not until approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes after the monitor was disconnected that the next assessment of the fetal heart rate was carried out (an NST was performed), which revealed that the baby was in grave danger, as the significant fetal heart rate abnormalities were persisting. An obstetrician was consulted who carried out an ultrasound which confirmed fetal bradycardia and an abruption of the placenta.

An emergency Caesarean section was ordered. However, the placental abruption had taken a significant toll on the baby. The baby was born dead, with no heartbeat at birth. Resuscitation included bag mask ventilation and intubation.

Due to intrapartum asphyxia (impairment of oxygen delivered to the brain before birth), the baby developed hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) and currently suffers from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy, a seizure disorder and profound developmental delay. The child is non-verbal, is confined to a wheelchair and will require 24-hour assistance with every aspect of living for the rest of his life.

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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.