Medical Verdicts

Improper heart monitoring causes stillbirth


Undisclosed venue (Ohio)

A woman admitted to a hospital for delivery had spontaneous rupture of membranes. The mother was placed on a fetal monitor and given oxytocin. Fetal monitoring was reassuring for 48 hours. During that time the midwife, who had primary responsibility for the woman’s care, presented on only 1 occasion, even though hospital policy required examination every 24 hours, with more frequent exams after administration of oxytocin.

Two hours prior to delivery, the fetal monitor strip showed disturbing changes. The nurses were actually monitoring the maternal heart rate, not the fetal one. Once the fetal heart rate was located, a sinusoidal pattern was noted, but was not addressed for 40 minutes. Again, the nurses began to mistakenly monitor the maternal heart rate.

After the mother delivered a stillborn infant, pathology of the placenta revealed an abruption. The mother claimed the midwife was required by hospital policy to be present during labor. The defense contended that the child died from a viral syndrome.

  • An $875,000 settlement was reached.
The cases in this column are selected by the editors of OBG Management from Medical Malpractice Verdicts, Settlements & Experts, with permission of the editor, Lewis Laska, of Nashville, Tenn ( While there are instances when the available information is incomplete, these cases represent the types of clinical situations that typically result in litigation.

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