A Florida couple has been awarded $33.8 million in a medical malpractice case – helpful but hollow victory in light of the circumstances. In one of the most unusual labor and delivery situations anyone can imagine, this case highlights how something as simple as a phone call can cost patients tremendously.
It also highlights the importance of contacting a medical malpractice attorney as soon as negligence is suspected.
Phone Call Medical Malpractice Case Information
Imagine you are expectant parents, the big day has arrived and you are anxiously awaiting the arrival of your precious new baby. The pregnancy was smooth, and you are confident that labor and delivery will be equally so. After all, you trust your doctors to do the right thing for the health of you and your child.
As you navigate through the labor and delivery process, your hope rides on the skill of doctors and nurses attending your family to ensure that all goes well. Now imagine that as you prepare to deliver your child, the doctor attending you leaves the room unexpectedly for long periods. He is distracted, and even steps out to make a phone call to his stockbroker while you are in labor.
According to the lawsuit, these are just some of the negligent actions that resulted in a Florida couple’s child being born blue in December 2013. Not only was he blue, his face and limbs were limp, and a medical team had to revive him. It is further alleged that the doctor ordered nursing staff to restart Pitocin, a medication that strengthens contractions, and failed to perform a Cesarean section (c-section).
Due to severe oxygen deprivation, the child was born with brain damage that has left him permanently disabled. He was diagnosed with hypoxic ischemic-encephalopathy and will require lifelong medical and nursing care, future surgeries, and daily medications.
Court records indicated that when the doctor arrived to deliver the baby, a “category 3” fetal heart rate was reported, which indicates oxygen and blood deprivation. Pitocin was continued for over an hour, which increased contractions and reduced the amount of blood supplied to the baby. The doctor also reportedly attempted vacuum extraction three times unsuccessfully before the baby was finally delivered after 90 minutes of traumatic labor. The doctor was not in the room when the baby was born, but returned to cut the umbilical cord five minutes later.
One of the medical experts testifying during the trial stated that the damage likely would not have occurred if a c-section had been ordered sooner into the labor process. Unfortunately, no amount of monetary compensation can make up for what was taken from this child. He cannot sit up, speak, eat, or breathe on his own. He has cerebral palsy and scoliosis, and has been hospitalized around 30 times in his three years of life.
A Pattern of Negligence?
The doctor being sued allegedly blamed the mother in the case above for not pushing hard enough, and further falsified documents to appear as though she refused a c-section. As media sources have reported on the case, the doctor has also failed to offer an apology to the parents. What’s more, this is not the first time he has been sued.
Two other cases of a baby being born with brain damage or permanent disability have been reported. All of the cases were among teenage mothers being served by the same hospital. One of the other cases alleges that signs of fetal distress were ignored by the doctor, and he waited too long to order a c-section. The baby suffered permanent brain damage.
Even though a string of similar reports have flooded in, the doctor in question has faced no consequences. His license remains intact, and he continues to practice medicine. In fact, he is not even responsible for the $33.8 million judgment because he worked for a federally funded clinic. The U.S. government is considered the responsible party for the judgment.
Finding the Truth
Most patients look into reviews, ratings, and any sign of medical reprimand before choosing a doctor. Unfortunately, these sources provide only a glimpse into the history any doctor has. Even the status or record of a doctor’s medical license can be spotless, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she has not been involved in lawsuits or allegations. There are two primary reasons why this may be the case according to the director of the National Medical Malpractice Advocacy Association in Texas:
- When patients are injured, the cases are often confidential. Monetary settlements are also confidential and may not be included in a medical license record.
- In a lot of cases (including the case discussed above), the doctor isn’t named as a defendant in the lawsuit. Rather, the facility where he or she is employed may be listed, which again shields the doctor from a permanent blip on the medical license record.
In all three of the cases involving the Florida doctor discussed above, the United States was listed as the defendant because the government is liable for injuries caused by its medical employees.
Most states have physician profiles where patients can access information about the doctor, his or her past, and the status of their medical license. Still, these profiles are not enough to warn patients about potentially dangerous doctors, or any allegations of negligent or substandard care. There are several reasons why negligence flies under the radar of officials, such as:
- The Florida Department of Health only investigates doctors for malpractice if a patient files a formal complaint.
- Doctors may fail to notify the Department of Health of any adverse or unusual events that occur while they are providing care, which they are legally required to do within 15 days of the event.
- Adverse event reports are only made public if a probable-cause finding is issued by the health department investigatory panel.
When reports are made, it can take officials months or even years to investigate and reach a conclusion about whether to prosecute a doctor. If no probable cause is found, then the case may be closed with not so much as an apology for the family injured.
Anyone who believes they have been harmed by medical malpractice or negligence should contact a medical malpractice attorney right away to learn more about their legal rights. As this post suggests, investigating and litigating a medical malpractice claim can be a challenge, but a successfully litigated case can offer at least some hope for families struggling after an needless injury.