The mother was pregnant with her second child. When she was 21 weeks into her pregnancy, she started to experience pre-term contractions so she and her husband went to the hospital to be evaluated. Although the couple quickly told the admitting clerk and triage nurse the mother’s symptoms, the mother was not examined for five to six hours despite their constant pleading.
The emergency room physician did not believe that she was in labor although the mother told him that she had gone into very early pre-term labor with her first child as well. The emergency room physician finally called her general obstetrician who asked whether the emergency room physician had performed a simple vaginal examination to determine if the mother was in fact in labor. He had not. By the time she was examined, the mother was in full labor and gave birth on the emergency room gurney without assistance.
The hospital had not contacted the appropriate pediatric and anesthesia personnel so the baby could not be immediately resuscitated, intubated and medically stabilized. The baby died within several hours. Had the diagnosis of preterm labor been made when she arrived in the emergency room, there would have been a very good chance that her pre-term labor could have been stopped with medications called Tocolytics. Also, steroids would have been administered to speed up the baby’s lung development and proper specialists could have been standing by to aid in the delivery.
Suit was filed in New Castle, Lawrence County, PA against the hospital and the emergency room physician on the theory that a pregnant woman with such presenting symptoms should have been immediately transferred to the labor and delivery unit where personnel experienced in labor would have examined the mother, initiated proper monitoring and consulted an obstetrical specialist. The hospital’s own written policies, in effect prior to the date in question, required any woman 20 weeks or further along to be sent to the labor suite for evaluation.
The case was defended on the theory that regardless of when the mother was seen in the emergency room, she would have delivered a pre-term infant too small to survive.
The case settled in the middle of trial.