On November 7, 2011, a Texas medical malpractice jury returned a verdict in favor of the plaintiffs in the amount of $2.1 million for the blindness suffered by a premature baby as a result of the alleged medical negligence of her doctors and the hospital. The infant is now totally blind in her right eye and has limited sight in her left eye — she is legally blind in both eyes.
The infant was born premature on May 19, 2005 at a Texas hospital and was immediately admitted into the hospital’s neonatal unit due to her prematurity. At seven weeks, the infant was screened for retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), which is abnormal blood vessel development in the retina of a premature infant’s eye. She was not re-screened for ROP until 11 weeks after birth.
What Is Retinopathy Of Prematurity (ROP)?
The blood vessels in the retina begin to develop 3 months after conception and continue to develop until the normal time of birth. When a baby is delivered very early, the blood vessels may either stop growing or grow abnormally from the retina into the clear gel in the back of the eye. Because these blood vessels are very delicate, they may leak and cause bleeding into the eye, scar tissue may develop and cause the retina to pull loose, and/or blindness may occur in severe cases. Infants delivered at less than 30 weeks or less than 3 pounds are routinely screened for ROP.
The Texas infant was diagnosed with ROP and had laser surgery for the condition, but the surgery was not successful. The plaintiffs’ medical malpractice attorneys filed medical malpractice claims against the doctors and the hospital alleging that the ROP screening was not timely or thorough enough to detect the condition in the infant and that re-screening should have been done every one or two weeks until the ROP was diagnosed or the infant was determined to be clear of the risk of ROP. The defendants’ medical malpractice attorneys alleged that the defendants were not negligent and that the infant did not suffer her blindness due to medical malpractice.
The jury found that two of the doctors were each 45% at fault and that the hospital was 10% at fault (the hospital settled with the plaintiffs before the medical malpractice trial).
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