On September 5, 2019, a federal medical malpractice jury in Pennsylvania returned a defense verdict in a medical malpractice lawsuit that alleged that the medical negligence of a pediatrician and a Pennsylvania hospital led to a newborn’s death from an infection six hours after birth.
The eight-person jury deliberated for only a few hours before determining that the defendants had not deviated from the standard of care at the time of birth in 2015. The newborn’s parents had contended that the defendant pediatrician should have been called earlier by the consulting resident doctor who was in his third month of his rotation, and the defendant physician should have examined the newborn earlier, which could have prevented the newborn’s death from a massive e. coli infection if treatment had begun earlier. The defense argued that the newborn was born with the deadly infection but had not exhibited any symptoms of the infection that would have alerted the attending nurses and doctors to the peril, and by the time the infection became apparent, antibiotic treatment was started but ineffective (the newborn died less than two hours after antibiotic treatment began).
The child was born at 5:20 a.m., following shoulder dystocia complicating the delivery (which was disputed by the defense) and the use of suction to assist in the delivery. The baby allegedly inhaled meconium during delivery (the defense argued that there was no significant amount of meconium) and suddenly developed breathing problems shortly after birth. The plaintiffs argued that the defendant doctor was called at 7:20 a.m. but the defense argued that a nurse’s notation as to such in the medical records was an error (the defendant physician’s pager and cell phone records did not show a call from the defendant hospital or from her office at or near 7:20 a.m.). The defendant physician testified that she arrived at the defendant hospital’s nursery at her usual time and immediately examined and treated the newborn. Antibiotic treatment was started at 9:50 a.m.
The pathologist who performed an autopsy reportedly testified during trial that he had been wrong when he wrote in his report that there was a massive amount of meconium inhaled by the newborn.
The defense argued that meconium had nothing to do with the newborn’s death and that the delivering doctor had used a technique to prevent shoulder dystocia during delivery, not to treat a stuck shoulder. The defense also pointed to the plaintiffs’ family and friends who were present at the time of delivery, and shortly after the birth, who did not bring to the attention of any hospital medical staff any concerns with the newborn’s condition.
The U.S. Attorney became involved in the medical malpractice litigation because the defendant hospital and the doctor who performed the delivery were federally funded.
Peronis, et al. v. United States, et al., Case No. 2:16-cv-01389 (United States District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania).
If you or your baby suffered a birth injury (or worse) during labor and/or delivery at a federal medical facility or involving a federal employee, you should promptly find a federal birth injury lawyer who may investigate your birth injury claim for you and represent you and your child in a federal birth injury medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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