MEDICAL MALPRACTICE-FAILURE TO PROPERLY MONITOR NEWBORN’S BLOOD GASES AND METABOLIC ACIDOSIS CAUSED BRAIN DAMAGE AND CEREBRAL PALSY
Jury Verdict: Infant: $25,575,000
Infant’s Mother: $ 6,000,000
- Hydrocephalus with shunt
- Cerebral Palsy
- Spastic diplegia
- Spastic quadriparesis with proximal hypotonia and distal hypertonia
- Seizure disorder
- Brain damage
- Severe respiratory disease
- Grade III IVH
- Developmental delays
- Mental Retardation
- Wheel chair bound
Plaintiffs’ counsel claimed that infant-plaintiff suffered oxygen deprivation that caused permanent brain damage. Corey suffers from cerebral palsy, spastic diplegia, severe mental retardation, and deficits of his fine motor skills and gross motor skills. He is wheelchair bound and is unable to communicate.
The plaintiffs’ expert pediatric neurologist and physical rehabilitation expert opined that infant-plaintiff is totally disabled and that he will require lifelong medical assistance, including a tendon release surgery to his legs.
Facts: On May 30, 2000, plaintiff-mother, a pregnant 30 year old secretary in her 28th week of gestation, presented to Interfaith Medical Center in Brooklyn complaining of abdominal pain. About one hour later, infant-plaintiff was born, weighing 2.9 lbs. and with Apgar scores of 5, 6, and 8 at 1, 5 and 10 minutes. (The Apgar system scores an infant’s physical condition. The infant’s heart rate, respiration, muscle tone, response to stimuli, and color are each graded zero, one or two, with zero being worst and two being best. The maximum total score is 10. An infant with a low score requires immediate resuscitation to sustain life.) No cord blood gases were done.
Infant-plaintiff was in respiratory distress and was intubated. Over the next 28 hours his condition stabilized. At 11 A.M. on May 31 doctors performed a blood-gas analysis that registered a pH-level of 7.254, an indication of metabolic acidosis, the metabolic derangement of acid base balance where the blood pH is abnormally low. Doctors increased the oxygen saturation level and pressure after 5:20 P.M. but only gradually.
At 8:13 P.M. on May 31st, infant-plaintiff’s pH was 6.7. There had been no blood gases done for 9 hours. The doctors began aggressive treatment and stabilized infant-plaintiff.
On June 1st an ultrasound revealed a grade 3 intraventricular hemorrhage. Infant-plaintiff developed hydrocephalus and was transferred to Brooklyn Hospital, where the insertion of a permanent brain shunt was performed.
Infant-plaintiff was hospitalized for four months and was diagnosed with severe brain damage. plaintiff-mother, on behalf of her son and individually, commenced a medical malpractice suit against Interfaith Medical Center and Neighborhood Health Center. She claimed that the defendant departed from good standard of care.
Plaintiff’s counsel contended that the defendant failed to properly monitor infant-plaintiff’s blood-gas level and failed to diagnose the metabolic acidosis at 11 A.M. on May 31st. He argued that these failures led to infant-plaintiff’s hydrocephalus, resulting in permanent brain damage. Interfaith claimed that it did not depart from standard of care. It claimed that infant-plaintiff was placed on a pulse-oximeter which measures the blood’s oxygen saturation level, and he was stable until 4 P.M. on May 31st.
The defendant’s expert neonatologist opined that infant-plaintiff’s brain damage was due to his prematurity, respiratory distress syndrome (oxygen deprivation) and a spontaneous pulmonary hemorrhage.