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Jury: delayed C-section at Johns Hopkins caused cerebral palsy

A jury recently found Johns Hopkins Hospital negligent in its care of a woman who was in labor and who needed an emergency cesarean section. Since the hospital delayed performing the emergency C-section, the baby was deprived of oxygen and the child now has cerebral palsy and a seizure disorder.

The baby boy was born at Johns Hopkins after the mother attempted to deliver him at home with the assistance of a midwife. According to the boy's mother, the baby became "stuck," and she needed to be rushed to the hospital. At trial, evidence was presented that the emergency C-section needed to be performed within 30-40 minutes of the expectant mother's arrival at the hospital, but it took two hours for the hospital to perform it.

According to the jury, the substandard care provided to him by the hospital is the primary cause of the child's cerebral palsy, a permanent disability which will cause him significant medical and personal issues throughout his life. Now two years old, he cannot sit up without assistance, nor can he walk or speak. His disabilities are profound and he will need extensive medical care assistance with daily tasks throughout his life. He will never know the quality of life of a normal child.

The jury awarded the family $55 million in compensation -- one of the largest malpractice verdicts ever awarded in Maryland. The award was divided into $25 million for a life-care plan and future medical expenses along with $4 million to compensate him for future lost wages and $26 million in non-economic damages such as pain and suffering. Because of Maryland's cap on some types of damages, the award was reduced by law to $26.6 million.

Johns Hopkins maintains that they followed the generally accepted standard for care and plans to appeal. "We strongly deny the allegations in [the mother's] complaint and continue to firmly believe that the medical care provided to [her] by Hopkins was entirely appropriate given the circumstances," the hospital said in a statement. The hospital maintains that the lack of oxygen causing birth injury likely took place during the attempted home delivery.

The mother hopes that Johns Hopkins will ultimately respond to the record jury award with reforms.

"I don't know what was going on in their brains, and I don't know what was going on behind the scenes, and I don't know what was going on with other patients, but whatever it was that went wrong ... I hope that it was at least a wake-up call or a learning experience, and it doesn't happen again."

Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Jury awards Waverly family $55 million in Hopkins malpractice case," Yvonne Wenger and Kevin Rector, June 26, 2012

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