The Ukanul Case
Mr. and Mrs. Ukanul were expecting their first baby. They went to the hospital, where Dr. Swartz was assigned to deliver the baby. Dr. Swartz was part of a bigger practice of obstetricians, who happened to be on-call on the same date that Mrs. Ukanul was in labor. Dr. Swartz came on to his shift at 7:00 a.m., and received a report from the nurses about how Mrs. Ukanul was doing. He didn’t examine Mrs. Ukanul, but simply relied upon what the nurses had told him, and then talked to the nurse who was going to take the next shift watching Mrs. Ukanul.
Unfortunately, the nurse who took the next shift, Nurse Palin, was busy with other things, and did not keep good notes throughout the labor. Also, Nurse Palin did not notice that while Mrs. Ukanul was in labor, the fetal monitor, which is the monitor that shows the baby’s heart rate, was showing bad signs; that is, that the baby was not receiving sufficient oxygen.
Dr. Swartz said that he was watching the monitor from the nurses’ station, and received reports from Nurse Palin, but no notes were made of this.
About a half an hour before the baby was to be delivered; Dr. Swartz stopped in and saw Mrs. Ukanul for a few minutes, but then left. Nurse Palin continued to watch Mrs. Ukanul, and finally when the baby didn’t come down the birth canal enough, Nurse Palin called for Dr. Swartz, who came in and elected to proceed with a C-section delivery.
All the while, the fetal strips continued to show that the baby was not getting enough oxygen, and when Mrs. Ukanul was taken to the delivery room, the fetal monitoring machine was removed, and for 20 minutes, nobody knew the condition of the baby.
When delivery finally occurred, the baby was in distress, with low oxygen and heart rates. The baby was immediately taken to the nursery and had to be revived. However, unfortunately, by that time, Baby Ukanul had suffered severe neurological problems and permanent brain damage. The evidence showed that the baby had suffered permanent, life-long physical and mental issues, and the cost of her care was going to be enormous.
Suit was brought against Dr. Swartz and the hospital for the actions of Nurse Palin. After seven days of trial, the case was settled for a multi-million dollar settlement.