A Baltimore family was recently awarded $55 million in damages from Johns Hopkins Hospital for its role in the birth of a child who suffered serious brain damage. The medical malpractice award was made largely on the basis of testimony about the conduct of the hospital's nurses and doctors in the two-hour period before the child was delivered.
The judge excluded from the jury's consideration, however, evidence about the possible role of a midwife who attended to the mother at home earlier in the day, attempting to deliver the baby there. When troubles developed in doing so, the mother was rushed by ambulance to the hospital, with the child already in distress in the womb.
Subsequently, the midwife's state license was suspended, based on her conduct during this attempted delivery and her actions in the prior three years that resulted in various difficulties during four other attempted home deliveries under her supervision, including one case in which a newborn died.
The plaintiffs' lawyers successfully argued to the trial judge that information concerning the midwife's possible negligence would prejudice the jury and prevent them from keeping their focus where it belonged -- on whether the hospital and its personnel acted in a negligent manner, given the condition of the mother and child at the time that they arrived at the hospital in distress.
They argued to the jury that the child's brain damage resulted from him being deprived of oxygen to his brain while a delay occurred in performing a necessary cesarean section delivery. As a result, the child, now 2 years old, suffers from severe and permanent cognitive problems.
The $55 million medical malpractice award was said to be one of the largest in Maryland history, and would be reduced to $29.6 million after the application of a state limit on such damages. Johns Hopkins is appealing the decision.
Source: The Baltimore Sun, "Details on midwife unaired in Hopkins malpractice case," Meredith Cohn, July 14, 2012
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