Medical Verdicts

Placenta fails to deliver: Mother dies of hemorrhage

Notable judgments and settlements



After a 38-year-old woman gave birth, the placenta did not deliver. The ObGyn was unable remove the entire placenta and the mother began to hemorrhage. After an hour, the patient was given a blood transfusion. She could not be stabilized and died.

ESTATE’S CLAIM The ObGyn was negligent. He failed to remove the entire placenta and did not treat the hemorrhage in a timely manner. The hospital staff was negligent in failing to properly address the massive hemorrhage. A prompt transfusion would have saved the woman’s life, but the anesthesiologist who had to approve the procedure could not be located. Other procedures, including a hysterectomy, could have saved the mother’s life.

DEFENDANTS’ DEFENSE The ObGyn claimed that incomplete delivery of the placenta and postpartum hemorrhage are known complications of a delivery. The hospital claimed that the staff had acted appropriately and that it was not responsible for the actions of the anesthesiologist, an independent contractor. The anesthesiologist denied negligence.

VERDICT A $2 million New York settlement was reached that included $200,000 from the hospital and $1.8 million from the physicians’ insurers.

Related Article: Postpartum hemorrhage: 11 critical questions, answered by an expert Haywood L. Brown, MD (January 2011)

At her 39th-week prenatal visit at a clinic,
the mother reported decreased fetal movement. Acoustic stimulation of the fetus was attempted twice without response. The fetal heart-rate monitor identified a normal heart rate without variability or accelerations. The mother was taken by wheelchair to the hospital next door. A note explaining the nonreassuring findings allegedly accompanied her.

The mother waited to be admitted. When a fetal heart-rate monitor was connected 30 minutes after admission, results were still nonreassuring.

A resident examined the mother 45 minutes later. He called the attending ObGyn, and they decided to postpone cesarean delivery because the mother had eaten breakfast.

When the fetal heart rate crashed 4 hours later, a second-year resident began emergency cesarean delivery. The ObGyn, who had never examined the patient, observed some of the procedure in the OR.

The baby was born with catastrophic brain damage, and has spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy, feeding problems, and significant cognitive and developmental delays.

PARENTS’ CLAIM A cesarean delivery should have been performed immediately after the mother’s admission. Even if the cesarean had been begun 15 to 20 minutes earlier, the injury could have been avoided. The ObGyn never examined the mother nor did he participate in the cesarean delivery.

DEFENDANTS’ DEFENSE The ObGyn and hospital denied negligence. The note was not attached to the patient’s chart. At trial, the ObGyn admitted that a delivery 15 to 20 minutes earlier might have avoided the injury.

VERDICT A $33,591,900 Tennessee verdict was returned.

A 32-year-old woman requested sterilization
after the birth of her third child. A Falope ring tubal ligation procedure was performed by a gynecologist in April 2006. During surgery, the device used by the gynecologist ejected 2 silastic bands on the right side instead of one.

The patient learned she was pregnant in March 2007. Her high-risk pregnancy ended with cesarean delivery in September 2007. The delivering ObGyn found the patient’s right fallopian tube in its natural, unscarred state. A silastic band was applied to the right ovarian ligament, not the right fallopian tube.

PATIENT’S CLAIM The gynecologist banded the ovarian ligament instead of the fallopian tube.

PHYSICIAN’S DEFENSE The procedure was properly performed. The rings initially enclosed the fallopian tube and ovarian ligament, but the top ring subsequently migrated off the structures, allowing the fallopian tube to slip out of the attachment. Failure to sterilize is a known risk of the procedure.

VERDICT An Illinois defense verdict was returned.

A 14-year-old patient
went to a clinic for elective abortion at 8 weeks’ gestation. Ultrasonography (US) prior to the procedure showed an intrauterine pregnancy. After dilating the cervix, the ObGyn inserted a semi-rigid vacuum aspiration curette to suction the uterine contents, but received nothing. A second US confirmed an intrauterine pregnancy. The ObGyn was able to locate the pregnancy and indent the gestational sac with 3 different dilators and the curette. The pregnancy decreased in size on US after the suction was applied. However, the patient’s vital signs dropped dramatically, and she was rushed to the hospital. During emergency surgery, severe pelvic adhesive disease complicated the ability to stop the hemorrhage. Four physicians concurred that supracervical hysterectomy was needed to save the patient’s life. Postoperative pathology identified a cornual or interstitial ectopic pregnancy.

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