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Improper Fetal Monitoring Causing Cerebral Palsy Results in $15 Million Settlement

A full term preganancy was not properly monitored by an obstretrics resident during an induction of labor causing the infant to suffer a hypoxic brain injury resulting in cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia. The case against a resident physician and Evanston Hospital resulted in a $15 million settlement for the plaintiffs before the trial began. The child, now eight (8) years old, has severe disabilities as a result of oxygen deprivation during the labor and delivery. The child has seizures, impaired vision and severe global developmental delays.

This case is a classic example of obstetrical malpractice. An uneventful pregnancy and a routine induction of labor ended in catastrophe for the child. Abnormalities were noted on routine fetal monitoring during the night and the mother developed a fever. However, the resident failed to inform any attending obstetrician of these changes. The resident noted maternal fever, hyperstimulation of the fetus and an increase in the fetal heart rate. The fetal heart rate pattern progressed into one of variable decelerations with late recovery, which soon further progressed into a late deceleration pattern. This pattern of fetal heart monitoring is typical of significant fetal distress and an infant suffering hypoxia. Although some of these abnormalities were noted, the resident was inexperienced and failed to notify an attending obstretrician of these findings.

Shortly after birth, the child developed seizure activity, which is also a sign of a hypoxic brain injury. A CT scan demonstrated difuse bilateral brain injury. The child will undoubtedly suffer from severe and devastating disabilities for the remainer of his life.

This case settled prior to trial largely because of the strength of the medical evidence. Fetal monitoring was done and recorded, which clearly demonstrated abnormalities that were not acted on. The labor should not have been permitted to proceed to a non-urgent vaginal delivery in the face of hours of abnormal fetal monitoring. Rather, an emergency caesarean section should have occurred when the abnormal fetal monitoring was first detected.

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