Pregnancy is a precarious time. Mothers-to-be must spend nearly ten months making healthy choices around food, sleep, exercise and abstinence from dangerous substances to ensure that their baby is born healthy. But all of that work can be compromised by problems that occur during labor and delivery.
In particular, when doctors delay care to fetuses in distress or allow labor to go on for too long, the damage done can be severe and lifelong. That appears to be the case in a birth injuries lawsuit that recently settled for over $10 million.
According to news reports, the plaintiff in the suit was a woman who was on active duty in the military and stationed in Georgia. She carried her baby to full term and delivered at a civilian hospital whose delivery services were contracted by the local army medical center. Both the civilian hospital and the U.S. government were named as defendants in the suit.
The problem in this case was undue delay in delivering the baby. Two hours reportedly passed between the time the doctor examined the woman and the time the baby was born. Even after knowing the baby was in distress, it apparently took the doctor 22 minutes to change into his scrubs.
As a result of the delay, the baby was born with severe brain injuries that will set the course of the child’s entire life. The tragedy likely could have been prevented if the doctor and staff had acted with more urgency.
In all, the two defendants settled for a combined total of $10.2 million – a settlement that was only disclosed publicly because the federal government was involved (and settlement money will come at taxpayer expense).
This case is a tragic example of just how important it is for doctors and hospital staff to be ready to respond to any signs of trouble during labor and delivery. When they either ignore warning signs or react too slowly, the youngest and most vulnerable patients can be irreparably harmed.