Fetal Bradycardia Birth Injury Lawsuit in Baltimore

Bell v. University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus

Hearth MonitorThis birth injury medical malpractice claim was filed in Baltimore City against UMMC Midtown after a baby suffered permanent brain injuries due to a delayed C-section. It was filed with Maryland Health Claims Arbitration on March 15, 2018, and it is the 128th medical malpractice case filed in Maryland this year.

Summary of Plaintiff's Allegations

A 26-year-old woman presented to the University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus (UMMC Midtown). She was 40 weeks pregnant and experiencing contractions. Four hours later, her water broke. The amniotic fluid was stained green with meconium, indicating that the baby was in distress. After another thirteen hours, the woman was fully dilated and her baby showed evidence of recurrent late heart decelerations - another ominous sign of fetal distress. Still, her physicians took no action.

The low fetal heart rate persisted throughout the night. In the early morning, nearly twenty hours after the woman's water broke, the physician placed a vacuum extractor to jump-start a vaginal delivery. By this point, it was too late. The baby had already been breathing in meconium for a full day and his shoulder got stuck in the birth canal. The UMMC Midtown medical personnel allowed the woman to proceed with a prolonged and traumatic labor, long after an emergency C-section should have been performed.

At birth, the baby had severely low oxygen levels and he required resuscitation. In the neonatal intensive care unit, he was noted to have shallow, irregular breathing and a low urine output. Eventually, he was diagnosed with a significant brain injury including speech and other developmental delays.

Additional Comments
  • A fetus goes into distress when the womb becomes a hostile environment, meaning the unborn baby isn't getting enough oxygen or other nutrients from the mother's blood and/or the placenta. An abnormal fetal heart rate is the most sure-fire signal of fetal distress, so it is important for medical staff to pay close attention to the fetal heart monitor. If a distressed baby remains in utero for too long, he or she will suffer severe and permanent brain damage due to prolonged oxygen or nutrient deprivation.

  • In this particular case, the fetus was bradycardic - his heart rate was abnormally slow. The labor and delivery process is stressful for even the healthiest babies, so short bouts of bradycardia are not necessarily a cause for concern. Certainly, physicians should be properly trained to recognize when a fetal bradycardic episode lasts long enough to signal distress, before the bradycardia becomes so severe that it causes a permanent brain injury. Doctors and nurses have an obligation to continuously monitor the fetal heart rate during labor and delivery so as to recognize the signs of fetal distress and, if necessary, perform an emergency C-section in a timely manner.

Jurisdiction
  • Baltimore City
Defendants
  • Maryland General Hospital, Inc. n/k/a University of Maryland Medical Center Midtown Campus
Hospitals Where Patient Was Treated
  • UMMC Midtown
Negligence
  • Failing to employ the appropriate diagnostic tests, treatments, and procedures.

  • Failing to thoroughly evaluate the claimants' conditions.

  • Failing to adjust the claimants' treatment in response to the appropriate evaluation of the effects of their treatments.

  • Failing to properly monitor the course of the claimants' conditions and treatments.

  • Failing to diagnose the claimants' conditions in a timely manner.

Specific Counts Pled
  • As a direct result of the defendant's negligence, the baby suffered a severe brain injury. He will not enjoy an average childhood, he will not be able to take his place in society as an average adult, and he will be dependent upon others for his entire life.
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