A relatively recent medical malpractice lawsuit details a case where a Pennsylvania infant suffered severe birth injuries that might have been prevented with faster intervention. When the mother arrived at the Magee-Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh to delivery her baby, a physician administered a drug to commence contractions.
Pitocin: a drug commonly used to induce labor
Oxytocin, also sold under the brand name Pitocin, is frequently used to start or continue labor. Pitocin is a hormone that causes the uterus to contract. While the medicine is administered, medical staff members monitor the mother’s contractions and the baby’s heart rate.
The Pennsylvania mother started receiving Pitocin early in the morning to progress the labor. Staff placed a fetal heart rate monitor to track the baby’s vital signs. Over several hours, medical staff increased the amount of Pitocin seeking to advance labor. Several nurses, residents and a physician checked on the mother, however no fetal well-being assessment occurred.
The mother later received an epidural. After several more hours, the physician noted the baby’s decreased heart rate and ordered an emergency cesarean. Unfortunately, the Pitocin went unnoticed until the start of the cesarean. The baby needed resuscitation after delivery. The baby was diagnosed with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), seizures and respiratory distress. The injuries were permanent.
HIE in a common cause of cerebral palsy and related disabilities. Hypoxic injuries occur when there is a lack of oxygen and heart problems during delivery. In severe cases, HIE can also cause brain damage.
In this case, parents of the baby sued on behalf of their child who suffered harm when the Pitocin was not stopped.
Standard for medical malpractice claims
Medical malpractice is a type of negligence. When the apparent negligence of a medical professional causes a serious injury, the injured party or the person suing on behalf of the injured person must prove:
- The physician owed the patient a duty of care
- The duty of care was breached
- Breach of the duty was the proximate cause of the harm
- Damages resulted from the harm
In medical malpractice claims, experts often are required to testify on duty, breach and causation. Experts testify whether “the acts of a physician deviated from good and acceptable standards, and that such deviation was the proximate cause of the harm.”
For cases that reach a jury trial, the medical expert needs to present his or her opinion in a way that people outside of the medical community can understand.
Injuries caused by medical negligence are not always easy to prove. When questions exist over what caused an injury or death at a medical facility, contact an experienced medical malpractice attorney who can review the details of your situation and investigate whether a claim exists. Monetary damages may be available to compensate for past and future medical expenses, lost wages, if applicable, and pain and suffering.