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Hospitals Unit Found Liable In Birth Injury

From: Holly Wild
email0: NY Times
Category: Birth Injury
Date: 19 Nov 2008
Time: 23:11:12 -0500


A jury has ordered the Health and Hospitals Corporation to pay $76.4 million to a 12-year-old girl who suffered brain damage and other permanent injuries during her birth in what her lawyer called a botched delivery at Harlem Hospital Center. It was one of the largest malpractice verdicts ever recorded against the corporation, which runs the city's hospitals.

The award, returned last Friday by a State Supreme Court jury in Manhattan, was made to a girl, who was born on Jan. 16, 1987. She was born with her umbilical cord wrapped around her neck and with no medical personnel in the hospital room to attend her mother who underwent 17 hours of labor.

Given that the infant was already severely compromised for 17 hours, and was strangled by her own umbilical cord and was not breathing, every second was crucial. There was no one on hand to administer immediate resuscitation and live-saving measures. This was a classic example of the indifferent and horrendous care that the city's H.H.C. has been chastised for.

The chief counsel to the hospitals corporation, denied that there had been anything improper in the delivery and insisted that the hospital care had been ''excellent.'' He said the city would move to have the verdict set aside as ''grossly excessive'' and, failing that, would appeal.

The verdict was one of the largest ever delivered against the city in a medical malpractice case. A jury in Queens last year awarded more than $112 million in an obstetrics case, but a later settlement reduced the sum to $4.5 million. A Manhattan jury awarded $49 million last year in an obstetrics case against Lenox Hill Hospital, and a Bronx jury in 1995 ordered the Health and Hospitals Corporation to pay $42 million to the mother of a girl injured at birth at Lincoln Hospital.

The infant, whose mother is a housewife and whose father, Sensois, has worked as a kitchen helper and a janitor to pay for her medical care, suffers from cerebral palsy, requires a wheelchair and round-the-clock care and is unable to read or write. The family -- there are five other children -- lives in lower Manhattan.

The family's lawyer, Mr. Moore, said the verdict, returned by a jury of three men and three women after a two-week trial and two hours of deliberations, included $35 million for future medical care and loss of earning capacity, $5 million for past suffering and $36.4 million for future suffering. He said the city had turned down a settlement offer of $3.5 million just before the trial.

The mother a Haitian immigrant, was admitted to Harlem Hospital at 9 A.M. on Jan. 15, 1987, and that a staff of ''unsupervised, inexperienced and overworked obstetrical residents'' allowed labor to continue for 17 hours and failed to detect that the umbilical cord was a threat to the unborn child.

She was never evaluated by an attending physician. In addition, fetal heart monitor tapes and other records were either missing or altered, and a critical test -- which would have shown that the umbilical cord was wrapped around the infant's neck, causing a decelerated heart rate -- had been ordered, but the residents forgot to administer it.''

The mother eventually delivered the baby with no one else in the room -- ''no doctor, no nurse, no one, left the child to be born with the cord ''wrapped tightly around her neck, not breathing, and requiring immediate resuscitation.''

During labor the residents had administered the drug Pitocin, which stimulated forceful contractions. But, he said, ''instead of rescuing the infant from the womb through emergency Caesarean section, they exacerbated the problem and allowed the umbilical cord to act as a noose.''

The mother was left unattended for about five minutes, during and after the birth, despite her desperate and agonizing pleas for help. By then, the infant had suffered severe brain damage and other permanent injuries.  http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9F01E0DE1138F936A25755C0A96F958260
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