An Oregon medical malpractice case that began on January 21, 2015 and is expected to last two weeks highlights some of the issues and defenses raised in birth injury cases where it is alleged that a child suffered cerebral palsy as a result of medical negligence during labor and delivery.
The stakes are high for both the plaintiffs and the defendants in such cases because the extent of the permanent injuries suffered by the child typically requires around-the-clock medical and attendant care for the child that will cost millions of dollars over the lifetime of the child – either the parents will be responsible for the enormous expenses or the defendant medical providers will be liable if they are found to have committed medical negligence that led to the child developing cerebral palsy due to oxygen deprivation during labor and delivery that caused the serious brain injury.
In the Oregon birth injury case, the plaintiff was two weeks overdue after having an uneventful pregnancy when the defendant physician decided to induce labor. The woman was admitted to the hospital on December 11, 2007 to begin the process of inducing labor. For more than a day, the defendant physician ordered increasing doses of drugs intended to induce labor by causing the uterus to contract, leading to the baby being pushed toward the cervix for delivery.
The undisputed evidence is that the fetus’ heart rate repeatedly dropped for a period of time and then returned to normal, and that there was a prolonged period of decreased heart rate (60 beats per minute for eight or nine minutes) during the morning on December 12, 2007. The defendant physician then ordered an emergency Cesarean section delivery.
The parties to the Oregon medical malpractice birth injury lawsuit disagree, however, whether the defendant physician allegedly ignored red flags raised by the fetus’ periods of decreased heart rate or that the amount of the labor-inducing medications was dangerous (the woman’s cervix remained dilated at only 5 cm for ten hours, during which most of the time the defendant physician was at home and was receiving updates by telephone).
The woman’s attorney has told the jury that it was unreasonable for the defendant physician to not examine the woman during the extended period of time she was being induced and that the Cesarean delivery should have been performed earlier, which would have avoided the baby suffering deprivation of oxygen to his brain that caused his brain injury and his resulting cerebral palsy. The attorney for the defendant physician has told the jury that slow progress is normal when labor is induced and that periodic dips in the fetus’ heat rate is also normal – it was only after the fetal heart rate fell for the prolonged period of time that the standard of care required an emergency Cesarean delivery, which the defendant physician then promptly ordered.
The plaintiff’s attorney told the jury that the baby suffered his injuries due to asphyxiation and meconium, which injuries will never get better, and that the now seven-year-old boy will need lifetime care and will be unable to work full-time or live independently. The defendant’s attorney told the jury that there is no way to know how the child will progress in the future or that he will need life-long care, citing the child’s present condition.
After hearing all of the trial testimony, considering the admitted evidence, and listening to the arguments of the parties’ lawyers during closing arguments, the Oregon medical malpractice jury will have to determine if the defendant physician was medically negligent and, if so, whether that negligence caused the baby to be injured, the extent of the injuries, and the amount that would be appropriate to compensate the plaintiffs for the baby’s past, present, and future injuries and the medical and other financial needs and losses.
If your child suffered injuries during labor or at birth that may be due to medical negligence, you should promptly seek the legal advice of a local medical malpractice attorney in your U.S. state who may investigate your possible birth injury claim for you and represent you and your child in a birth injury medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
Visit our website or call us toll-free at 800-295-3959 to find birth injury lawyers in your state who may assist you.
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