Medical Verdicts

Physician absent during labor until heart rate crashed


Unknown Ohio venue

A 22-year-old mother was admitted to the hospital for induction after passing her due date. Within 4 hours the fetal heart monitor showed repetitive variable decelerations, which stopped when oxytocin was halted. The attending obstetrician ordered the restart of oxytocin after an epidural. No physician saw the patient prior to the restart of oxytocin, although an obstetrical resident and the attending were on the floor during the entire labor.

During delivery, the monitor showed that the fetal heart became nonreactive, but the delivery nurse did not notify anyone. About 3.5 hours later the fetal heart monitor showed persistent late decelerations, and again the delivery nurse did not notify anyone. Two hours later the fetal heart rate decreased to 60 bpm. An emergency cesarean section was performed and the infant was delivered within 10 minutes. The Apgar scores were 3 at 1 minute and 9 at 5 minutes. The baby was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and mental retardation at 3 months of age.

In suing, the mother claimed that no physician examined her during the 12 hours of labor until the fetal heart rate crashed. The hospital contended that the infant’s brain damage occurred prior to the mother being admitted to the hospital.

  • The parties settled for $2.3 million.
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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