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Failure to Diagnose Preeclampsia - The Bissell Case

Filed under Birth Injury, Cerebral Palsy, Emergency Room

The Bissell Case

Preeclampsia is a known medical risk in pregnancy. Preeclampsia is a condition where moters have their urine checked for signs of high protein, and their blood pressure is measured. If pregnancy induced diabetes or preeclamspia goes untreated, it can progress to eclampsia, and can be fatal for either, the mother, her baby or both. Diabetes treated appropriately with insulin will results in a normal pregnancy and delivery.

Ms. Bissell was six months pregnant and presented to the Defendant hospital Emergency Room with complaints of abdominal pain which started in her back. Her vital signs disclosed high blood pressure and a urine test also revealed a high sugar or protein level. When she was examined, the physical examination disclosed marked swelling, especially in her ankles, which is another sign of possible preeclampsia.

If preeclampsia, or a pre-seizure state is timely addressed, it can be stopped. Where it goes untreated, a pregnant woman’s physical condition will likely deteriorate to “eclampsia” or seizures. If a mother suffers a seizure during pregnancy, there is a high likelihood of premature delivery, fetal demise or significant fetal distress leading to brain damage. All obstetricians know that the classic signs of preeclampsia are high blood pressure, high protein levels in the urine, swelling and abdominal pain. Ms. Bissell was known to have all of these signs when she presented to the Emergency Department.

After being examined by a triage nurse, Ms. Bissell was examined by a Defendant doctor who conducted the examination and called Ms. Bissell’s obstetrician who was in another part of the hospital. The emergency room doctor claimed that she asked the obstetrician to come and examine Ms. Bissell, but the obstetrician refused. The obstetrician disputed that request, but did not deny that a telephone call took place. The emergency room doctor then discharged Ms. Bissell, but later acknowledged that doing that was wrong, and that it deviated from the standard of good medical care.

The next day, Ms. Bissell’s preeclampsia became worse and progressed to eclampsia. She was found having a seizure by her family and was transported by ambulance back to the hospital, given medications to control the seizures and was then lifeflighted to Magee Women’s Hospital in Pittsburgh. A C-section was completed and a 28 week old male infant was delivered.

As a result of the birth trauma and severe prematurity, Baby Bissell suffered bleeding in the brain and brain damage, and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

Plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania claiming that the Defendant doctors should have properly treated preeclampsia, and if they had, the preeclampsia would not have progressed to eclampsia, and Baby Bissell would not have had the significant birth trauma that he did.

Before trial, the Defendants had the Minor Plaintiff examined by their “independent” physician, who wrote a report claiming that he was completely normal, with the exception of a slight limp. The “independent” physician claimed he had no mental problem, despite a wealth of testing that proved he was cognitively affected by cerebral palsy. The “independent” defense doctor based his findings primarily on the fact that he had received all B’s in the second grade.

At trial, the most compelling witness for the Plaintiff was Minor Plaitniff’s first grade teacher. She emotionally and tearfully described how Brett could not find his way back from the restroom when excused from the classroom; and she said she gave him B’s in class simply because he was well behaved.

Mid trial, a seven-figure settlement was reached.