Plaintiffs Successful at Trial and at the Ontario Court of Appeal — Family Recovers $10 Million in Damages as a Result of GP’s Failure to Screen Expectant Mother for Gestational Diabetes

The plaintiffs, from the Township of North Elmsley, Ontario, were successful at trial and at the Ontario Court of Appeal, recovering $10 million in damages for a severely injured plaintiff and her family. Their family doctor negligently failed to screen an expectant mother for gestational diabetes, despite clear signs that testing was desperately needed.

Mom was pregnant with her third child, but this pregnancy was particularly risky: she was obese, five feet tall, in her forties and had a strong family history of diabetes. It had also been 12 years since her last delivery, where she delivered a large baby weighing almost 10 pounds. These factors put her at an increased risk for developing gestational diabetes, hypertension, high blood pressure and for having a macrosomic (abnormally large) baby.

A few months later, Mom began to experience intense headaches, dizziness and swelling. The doctor did not order a glucose tolerance test, which would have confirmed Mom had gestational diabetes. This would have in turn led to the proper management of the pregnancy, including a special diet to reduce the size of the fetus, ultrasounds to assess the fetal size, and a referral to an obstetrician, particularly since her diabetes was combined with macrosomia and hypertension.

Towards the end of her pregnancy, Mom was still showing symptoms of hypertension. Knowing the baby would probably be very large, the doctor admitted Mom to the hospital without consulting an obstetrician. The Eastern Ontario hospital had no ultrasound facilities and no obstetricians on staff. A non-stress test confirmed Mom’s continuous hypertension. Without personally reviewing the prior non-stress test, the doctor decided to give Mom Oxytocin to induce labour after consulting with a fellow family practitioner at the hospital. Had Mom been properly tested for gestational diabetes, an elective C-section would have been available.

During labour, the fetal heart monitor tracing showed obvious fetal distress, but the doctor and nurses did not respond. Instead, the family doctor continued to order increases in the dosage of Oxytocin, which proved to be counterintuitive and harmful. The family doctor had little experience with shoulder dystocia since he was not an obstetrician and there were no obstetricians at the hospital he had chosen for Mom. As a result, during delivery the baby was stuck and hypoxic (low on oxygen).

An episiotomy was done which fractured the baby’s clavicle (collar bone). At birth, the baby was not breathing, was extremely blue from oxygen deprivation and near death.

As a result of the negligence, the plaintiff is non-verbal and has cerebral palsy. She remains totally dependent in all areas of self-care and will require a care-giver and special assistive devices for the rest of her life.

Please see the News & Events section of our website for the Toronto Star article relating to this case.

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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.