Final Verdict: Delay Not Malpractice
Pregnancy and childbirth are some of the most dangerous conditions commonly experienced by women in the United States. Despite medical advances, they still represent a period of time with high risks and a significant propensity to complications. The maternal mortality rate in the United States is much higher than that in most developed countries, further complicating matters.
Obstetricians go to great lengths to carefully identify and avoid possible complications during pregnancy, discussing risk factors and gaining a clear picture of each patient’s medical history. An experienced doctor will ask important questions that will help determine whether a particular expectant mother is more or less likely to experience any given challenge during the pregnancy. Early and effective communication is critical in ensuring good outcomes.
However, despite the best efforts of physicians, some complications are simply unavoidable. The best thing any physician can do is be clear and honest about the risks and instruct their patients to be on the alert for any impending problem.
Jasmine Knight, a 24-year-old expectant mother from Chesapeake City in Virginia, was 33 weeks pregnant when she began experiencing abdominal pain and strong uterine contractions. She went to the Chesapeake Regional Medical Center, concerned that something might be wrong. The physician on call, Dr. Lawrence Bass, was not at the hospital but told the nursing staff to perform an ultrasound. One to two hours later, Bass arrived at the hospital and performed a delivery by Cesarean section. Tragically, Jasmine’s child was stillborn.
The Cesarean section revealed that Jasmine had suffered a placental abruption: the premature separation of the placenta from the wall of the uterus. This emergency condition had cut off the blood and oxygen supply to the fetus, resulting in its death. Jasmine sued the hospital and Dr. Bass, claiming that the delay in receiving the C-section had caused the death of her child, and that the child could have been born alive if they had acted more quickly. She demanded $3 million for wrongful death, medical malpractice, delay in treatment, and mental and psychological pain.
During the three-day trial, experts hired by Jasmine’s attorneys testified that her appearance at the hospital was consistent with a placental abruption and should have been treated as the medical emergency it was. If Bass had come to the hospital immediately, they explained, the chance of survival would have been much better.
However, obstetrics experts who spoke to the jury on behalf of Dr. Bass argued that the symptoms were not uncommon in a first pregnancy. Neither the nursing staff nor Dr. Bass had any indication that Jasmine was experiencing a placental abruption. Accordingly, they didn’t depart from the ordinary standard of care. Even if Dr. Bass had come immediately, there probably would not have been a different outcome. The experts also noted that the Cesarean was performed within 15 minutes of Dr. Bass arriving at the hospital.
The jury understood Jasmine’s position and the pain she experienced from the loss of her child, but ultimately determined that there had been no medical malpractice committed. Accordingly, they returned a verdict for the defense after just two hours of deliberation. Call an attorney like Cohen & Cohen if you have questions about your situation.