Medicolegal Issues

Delayed birth, intubation failure: $10M settlement

Notable judgments and settlements

In This Article

  • Did OCs cause this woman’s stroke?
  • Ureter injury not treated until the next day
  • Patient didn’t want male physician
  • Symptoms attributed to anesthesia: $2M
  • Did nosebleeds cause baby’s disabilities?
  • Difficult neonatal resuscitation: $8.4M


Delayed birth, intubation failure: $10M settlement
Two days shy of her due date, a woman went to an Army hospital to report bloody mucus discharge and sporadic contractions. She was 2 cm dilated and 50% effaced with the baby at –2 station. Fetal heart-rate monitor results were reassuring. She was discharged home but returned 5 hours later with increased pain and contractions. She was 5 cm dilated, 90% effaced; the baby was at –3 station. When contractions ceased, she was discharged. There had been no cervical change for 6 hours with a negative fern test. Fetal monitoring results were reassuring.

The woman returned 3 hours later with increased pain and contractions. She had a fever and high white blood cell and neutrophil counts. She was 6 cm dilated, 90% effaced, but the baby was still at –3 station. Ampicillin sodium/sulbactam sodium was administered. The ObGyn was called 4 times over the next 2.5 hours, when fetal monitoring results worsened and bradycardia developed. The nurses treated fetal distress by changing the maternal position and performing amnioinfusion. Then the ObGyn came to the bedside and ordered cesarean delivery. The baby was born severely compromised from hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and metabolic acidosis. The pediatrician responsible for the baby’s resuscitation failed to get a response with bag ventilation after 5 minutes; 2 attempts at intubation failed. When the chief of pediatrics arrived at 15 minutes, the infant was successfully intubated. The baby was transferred to another facility. The child has profound disabilities.

Parents’ claim The hospital staff and physician did not deliver the baby in a timely manner when fetal distress was first noted. The pediatrician did not properly resuscitate the newborn.

Defendants’ defense Chorioamnionitis and funisitis caused or contributed to the infant’s injuries. Proper care was provided.

Verdict A $10 million Washington settlement was reached.

Did OCs cause this woman’s stroke?
A 40-year-old woman went to a clinic to obtain a prescription for birth control pills. A physician assistant (PA) conducted a complete physical examination. When no contraindications were found, a prescription for oral contraceptives (OCs) was provided. Two months later, the patient suffered a debilitating stroke. After the stroke, the patient was found to have a patent foramen ovale.

Patient’s claim The risks and benefits of the OC were not fully explained to the patient by the PA. She was not offered other contraceptive options. OCs are not safe for a woman her age due to a higher risk of stroke.

Defendants’ defense The patient used OCs in the past, and had received information from other physicians about their use. The stroke occurred because of the foramen ovale, not the use of OCs.

Verdict A Washington defense verdict was returned.

Ureter injury not treated until the next day
During cesarean delivery, the ObGyn identified a small ureteral injury but did not repair it. The next day, the ObGyn consulted a urologist and ordered an intravenous ­pyelogram (IVP). The urologist identified a ureteral obstruction and surgically repaired the injury. The patient was required to use a nephros-tomy bag for 6 months until the nephrostomy was reversed.

Patient’s claim The ObGyn was negligent in failing to immediately treat the ureter injury. The delay in repair necessitated the use of the nephrostomy bag.

Physician’s defense A ureter injury is a known complication of the procedure. The ObGyn did not cause the obstruction. Failure to perform an immediate repair was due to his concern that the patient might have lost too much blood during cesarean delivery. Bringing in the urologist the next day was appropriate. The patient completely recovered.

Verdict A $484,141 Mississippi verdict was returned.

Patient didn’t want male physician
After a woman experienced sexual assault in college, she did not want a male physician to perform a vaginal examination. When pregnant, she discussed that request with her nurse midwives. While she was in labor, a male ObGyn examined her.

Patient’s claim The nurse midwives failed to document her request not to be examined by a male clinician. The patient experienced severe emotional distress.

Defendants’ defense The midwives claimed they were never told of the patient’s aversion to having a male physician examine her. The male physician and the birthing center denied knowledge of the request.

Verdict A $270,000 Washington verdict was returned.

Symptoms attributed to anesthesia: $2M
A 62-year-old woman underwent treatment for abnormal uterine bleeding (AUB). Hysteroscopy revealed a retroverted uterus containing a 3-cm polyp. During resection of the polyp, the uterus was perforated and bowel was drawn into the uterus. The injury was not recognized. The patient was discharged home the same day.

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