Medical Malpractice: Policy limit settlement for failure to halt premature labor (OB/GYN negligence) *
When our pregnant client developed severe low back pain and nausea in the middle of the night, she went to the emergency room and was admitted to the labor and delivery unit. Urine tests showed some blood in the urine, and laboratory blood tests showed a slightly elevated white blood cell count. The patient’s OB/GYN doctor was called; however, he gave telephone orders to the nursing staff and did not come to the hospital to examine his patient. For the next several hours, the doctor continued to treat his patient with phone orders by relying on what the nurses told him. The OB/GYN doctor diagnosed our client with a kidney infection and prescribed an antibiotic over the phone without ever examining his patient. Meanwhile, nursing staff documented contractions in the medical chart consistent with premature labor but didn’t tell the doctor about it.
Finally, nine hours after our client’s symptoms had started, the doctor finally came to the hospital to examine his patient. In spite of fetal heart monitoring strips documenting uterine contractions, the doctor failed to consider his pregnant patient could be having premature labor and didn’t order any medications to halt the progression of the labor. Worse yet, the doctor told the nurses they didn’t need to continue fetal heart monitoring. Shortly after the doctor left the hospital our client’s water broke. Instead of coming back to the hospital to examine his patient, the doctor gave another telephone order for an ultrasound to evaluate the baby situation. Several hours passed before an ultrasound was done, and when the ultrasound tech scanned our patient’s belly, she couldn’t find the baby’s head because the baby’s head had already “crowned” in the birth canal. Our client’s baby was born three months prematurely and was rushed to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at another hospital. When our client was discharged the next day, she was not diagnosed or treated for a kidney infection. Our client’s baby died from complications due to premature birth, after fighting to survive for a month.
The negligent doctor and his insurance company claimed nothing could have been done to stop our client’s labor, even if she had been properly diagnosed when she was first admitted to the hospital. They further alleged the baby had no chance of survival because of her extreme prematurity.
We proved the standard of care requires a presumption of premature labor in a pregnant patient with back pain and nausea until proven otherwise, and that the standard of care requires specific testing, which was never done. We also proved kidney infections are known to cause premature labor, even when labor hasn’t started; therefore, the standard of care requires a heightened awareness of preterm labor developing, which requires continuous fetal heart and uterine contraction monitoring. Further, we proved Magnesium Sulfate should have been given to halt the progression of the labor, and steroid medication should have been given to protect the unborn baby’s lungs and increase the chances of survival.
*Ms. Chalfant’s successful settlements do not guarantee the same or similar result for every case but are presented to demonstrate her knowledge of medicine, medical malpractice litigation skills, and successful track record. Every case is unique with varying facts and circumstances.