Labor is usually an intense and sometimes frightening experience, but parents usually expect that the process will end well. For many Oregon families this is simply not the case. Although parents may feel helpless after learning their child suffered birth injuries during delivery, it is possible to hold hospitals, doctors and other medical staff responsible for their actions.
As compensation for their child’s injuries, a jury recently awarded $23.9 million to an out-of-state family. During the mother’s labor, the umbilical cord wound its way around the baby girl’s neck, which deprived her of oxygen. She was then born the color blue, and doctors had to undertake extensive resuscitation efforts before she was able to breathe on her own. But those efforts could not undo the damage that was already done. Soon after birth, doctors determined that she had suffered a severe brain injury that would limit her cognitive, speech and motor skills.
According to the family’s lawsuit, that injury could — and should — have been avoided. Medical experts strongly recommend that doctors regularly monitor mothers’ and babies’ heart rates separately to avoid confusing one for the other, as this can mask signs of distress. The hospital did not maintain any of this safety protocol or even regularly monitor the mother’s heart rate. Medical staff measured her heart rate only once over a period of around four hours, and no one checked whether there was any confusion. Taking that extra step would have likely shown the baby was in distress.
Children born with severe birth injuries typically require varying degrees of lifelong care. The cost of that care is out of reach for the average family in Oregon. However, by filing a medical malpractice suit, it is possible to both hold responsible parties accountable, seek compensation and even potentially affect safety protocol changes.