In a sad and heart-wrenching medical malpractice case involving the death of a three-day-old baby due to congenital abnormalities that were inconsistent with sustaining life outside the womb, the Mississippi trial judge found in favor of the defendant hospital, holding, “Although the loss of human life at birth is shockingly tragic, Mississippi law has consistently held that the healthcare providers are not guarantors or insurers of the success of the care and treatment rendered … our laws do not automatically impose liability for untoward results upon the shoulders of medical providers.”
The plaintiffs’ baby was diagnosed with tricuspid atresia in utero, an often deadly heart abnormality in newborns in which a defect in the tricuspid valve of the heart prevents the valve from opening properly to support the continuous blood flow throughout a baby’s body. Before the baby was born, a physician proposed that at the time of birth, a balloon atrial septostomy (“BAS”) would be performed to open and close the tricuspid valve, followed by transfer of the mother and newborn to a specialty hospital for further treatment of the baby’s tricuspid atresia.
At the time the baby was born on June 6, 2003, the baby was further diagnosed with pulmonary hypoplasia, respiratory distress syndrome, fetal growth retardation, and premature low birth weight, requiring that he be placed on a ventilator. Despite the efforts of the hospital’s medical staff, the baby began suffering from apnea, tachypnea, and retractions. The baby was never successfully weaned from the ventilator and he died on June 8, 2003.
The baby’s death certificate stated the cause of death to be tricuspid atresia; the autopsy report stated the baby’s case of death as follows: “In utero, his cardiac malformations were not life-limiting. However, ex-utero, his cardiac malformations along with his hypoplastic lung could not support him and he died.”
The plaintiffs filed their Mississippi medical malpractice lawsuit against the defendant hospital, alleging that its medical staff’s failure to perform the BAS was a breach of the standard of care and proximately caused their baby’s death. As a result of the Mississippi medical malpractice wrongful death trial that was tried without a jury, the Mississippi trial judge found that the baby “was very ill at birth, both as to two main organs necessary to sustain his life. While [the baby’s] abnormal heart appeared to be functioning sufficiently at birth, the emerging problems within [the baby’s] first three (3) days of life demanded that [the hospital] focus and treatment be geared toward the lungs, while they pondered any success of the balloon atria septostomy and the transport of [the mother and her baby] to [the specialty hospital],” concluding that the baby’s pulmonary hypoplasia was the most medically probable cause of the baby’s death, rather than his cardiac problem.
The Mississippi trial judge held that the defendant hospital used the ordinary skills possessed by minimally competent, reasonably prudent physicians practicing in the same field and under the same circumstances they faced during the baby’s “brief and turbulent life,” thereby dismissing the plaintiffs’ Mississippi medical malpractice wrongful death case with prejudice on August 18, 2017.
If your baby suffered a birth injury during labor and/or delivery in Mississippi or in another U.S. state, you should promptly find a birth injury lawyer in Mississippi or in your state who may investigate your birth injury claim for you and represent you and your child in a birth injury case, if appropriate.
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