On January 7, 2016, a West Virginia medical malpractice jury took one and a half hours after a three and a half day trial to find that a local West Virginia hospital was not medically negligent in the death of a newborn baby just a few days after his birth in 2012 due to undiagnosed Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS), which is a congenital heart defect.
The child’s mother had filed her West Virginia medical malpractice wrongful death lawsuit in 2014 against the hospital where she had delivered her baby, alleging that the hospital negligently failed to perform a pulse oximetry test on her newborn before discharging both mother and baby from the hospital. The plaintiff alleged that a nurse at the defendant hospital had falsely charted a pulse oximetry screening result for a test that was not done.
The defendant hospital denied any false charting and alleged that the pulse oximetry test was done, and that none of its staff or employees were medically negligent in caring for the newborn.
The CDC states that about 1 in every 4 babies born with a heart defect has a critical congenital heart defect (critical CHD), and that babies with a critical CHD need surgery or other procedures in the first year of life. About 7,200 babies born in the United States every year have critical CHDs.
The CDC states that these types of heart defects lead to low levels of oxygen in newborns and may be identified using pulse oximetry screening at least 24 hours after birth. Pulse oximetry is a simple bedside test that involves a pulse oximeter with sensors placed on the baby’s skin that is painless and takes only a few minutes, which estimates the amount of oxygen in a baby’s blood: low levels of oxygen in the blood can be a sign of a critical CHD. The pulse oximetry screening is done when a baby is at least 24 hours of age, or as late as possible if the baby is to be discharged from the hospital before he or she is 24 hours of age.
The CDC warns that some babies born with a critical CHD appear healthy at first and may be sent home before their heart defect is detected, putting them at risk of having serious complications within the first few days or weeks of life that often requires emergency care. The CDC notes that timely care for critical CHD babies may prevent disability or death early in life.
Pulse oximetry screening is most likely to detect seven of the critical CHDs: hypoplastic left heart syndrome, pulmonary atresia, tetralogy of Fallot, total anomalous pulmonary venous return, transposition of the great arteries, tricuspid atresia, and truncus arteriosus.
If your newborn baby suffered an injury (or worse) that may be due to medical negligence that occurred during labor and delivery, or shortly thereafter, in West Virginia or in another U.S. state, you should promptly consult with a medical malpractice lawyer in West Virginia or in your U.S. state who may investigate your birth injury claim for you and represent you in a medical malpractice case, if appropriate.
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