Baltimore Delayed C-Section Lawsuit

Helmick v. University of Maryland Medical Center

Fetal Heart MonitorThis delayed C-section birth injury claim was filed in Baltimore City when physicians failed to perform a C-section in time, causing a baby to suffer permanent brain damage. It was filed in Health Claims Arbitration on January 26, 2018, and it is the 47th medical malpractice case filed in Maryland this year. This suit is the 3rd birth injury claim filed in Maryland this year.

Summary of Plaintiff's Allegations

A woman, 35 weeks pregnant, presented to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), believing that she was in labor. After consulting with a midwife, the decision was made to monitor the woman for two hours. After one hour of observation, the fetal heart rate was noted to be decelerating. The decelerations continued over the next three hours until the physicians finally decided to perform a C-section.

The baby was born with a heart rate of fewer than 100 beats per minute with Apgar scores of 3 and 7. She was also sluggish, floppy, and experiencing leg tremors. Later, a head CT confirmed thalamic and subthalamic hyperdense areas consistent with hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, meaning that she had experienced severe oxygen deprivation during delivery.

Before her discharge home, the baby spent six days at the Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital with diagnoses that included hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, reduced resistance to passive joint movement, an abnormally small head, and absent gag and sucking reflex. All of these diagnoses are indicative of severe brain damage. The baby returned to the Pediatric Hospital several times over the following year for continued care and treatment.

Tragically, the child continues to suffer from her brain injury. She is wheelchair-bound, has a tracheostomy, and is unable to speak. She requires nursing assistance and is permanently dependent.

Additional Comments
  • Hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE) is a brain injury caused by oxygen deprivation in the brain. A variety of events during the labor and delivery process can cause fetal oxygen deprivation, such as stress, a pressure to the cranium, or umbilical cord complications, so it is important for physicians to pay close attention to the electronic fetal monitor. A fetus can deal with brief moments of oxygen depletion, but long periods of time without oxygen to the brain can cause permanent brain tissue destruction. Once the fetus shows signs of distress, physicians have to determine whether an emergency C-section would be a safer delivery option.

  • The claimant's two expert witnesses in neonatology and obstetrics/gynecology both believe that the baby's injuries could have been avoided if she had been delivered via C-section in a timely manner.

  • The defendant doctor found himself in the news many years ago when he performed as many as 10 abortions (he says 5) on three daughters without reporting to social services the possibility of abuse. The father was later convicted of raping his daughters over a 9 year period.

Jurisdiction
  • Baltimore City
Defendants
  • An OB/GYN
  • University of Maryland Medical System Corporation d/b/a University of Maryland Medical Center (both are defended by the Baltimore law firm Goodell, DeVries, Leech, & Dann)
Hospitals Where Patient was Treated
  • University of Maryland Medical Center
  • Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital
Negligence
  • Failing to appreciate the significance of the ongoing fetal distress, evidenced by severe decelerations down to levels of 60 heartbeats per minute with decreased or absent beat-to-beat variability.
  • Failing to perform a timely C-section.
Specific Counts Pled
  • As a result of the defendants' negligence, the minor claimant suffered a permanent brain injury that will prevent her from obtaining gainful employment or caring for herself independently.
Plaintiff's Experts and Areas of Specialty
  • Marcus Hermansen, M.D., neonatology
  • Martin Gubernick, M.D., obstetrics and gynecology
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