A California medical malpractice jury returned a defense verdict on May 25, 2018 in a California birth injury medical malpractice case where the parents-to-be claimed that two doctors delivering their full-term baby failed to timely perform a Cesarean section delivery after the fetal heart monitoring strips indicated that their baby was in distress, alleging that an emergency C-section could have saved their baby’s life.
By the time the baby was delivered, he was limp and lethargic, not breathing and did not have a heartbeat, and his pupils were fixed and dialated. The parents made the anguished decision to remove their newborn from life support on Christmas Day.
The California medical malpractice plaintiffs alleged that the defendants, an attending obstetrician and a resident obstetrician, negligently delayed in performing an emergency Cesarean section delivey while they attempted to deliver the baby vaginally using a vacuum-assisted device. The plaintiffs alleged that the defendants made three unsuccessful delivery attempts that unnecessarily and negligently delayed delivery by C-section, causing the baby to suffer severe metobolic acidosis caused by the lack of oxygen.
The plaintiff’s pregnancy was uneventful except for the diagnosis of intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). The plaintiff’s labor appeared to be proceeding normally in the hospital on December 23, 2012 until 2:50 a.m., when the fetal monitoring strips showed the baby to have an irregular heart rate that caused the attending nurse to leave the plaintiff’s bedside to summon the defendant resident obstetrician. The defendant resident obstetrician was delivering another baby at that time and it took more than twenty minutes for her to come to the plaintiff’s room.
The defendant resident obstetrician interpreted the fetal monitoring strips and ordered an emergency C-section delivery at about 3:35 a.m. The defendant resident obstetrician summoned the defendant attending obstetrician to assist in the delivery, who arrived at the plaintiff’s bedside about three minutes later.
The California medical malpractice plaintiffs alleged that the defendant attending obstetrician did not examine the plaintiff before instructing the defendant resident obstetrician to attempt vacuum-assisted delivery of the baby. The resident attempted to deliver by vacuum-assist twice, without success, followed by the attending obstetrician attempting vacuum-assisted delivery, which was also unsuccessful.
It was not until about ten minutes after the last of the three unsuccessful attempts at vacuum-assisted delivery, at 4:06 a.m., that the plaintiff was brought to the operating room for delivery by C-section. The baby was delivered four minutes later, at which time he had no brain activity.
The plaintiff’s expert testified during the California birth injury trial that the fetal monitoring strips showed that the baby was in distress as early as 3:08 a.m., when his heart rate went from very high to very low for long periods of time, which required that delivery by Cesarean section be accomplished immediately. The plaintiff’s expert also criticized the vacuum extraction delivery attempts because the baby had not descended far enough for the vacuum extraction to be effective in successfully delivering the baby.
The defense attorney told the California medical malpractice jury that the defendants used their best clinical judgment regarding attempts at delivery by using the vacuum device, which would be the fastest way to deliver the baby. The defense also cited the defense expert’s testimony that the fetal monitoring strips were reassuring until the time the plaintiff was brought to the operating room.
The plaintiffs’ medical malpractice lawyer had told the jury, “The baby did not need to die. If they had taken action this baby would have lived.”
If you or your baby suffered a birth injury (or worse) during labor and/or delivery in California or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a California birth injury attorney, or a birth injury attorney in your state, who may investigate your birth injury claim for you and represent you and your child in a birth injury medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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