The North Carolina Medical Board has launched an investigation of an obstetrician in Asheville who oversaw three home-birth deliveries in which all three babies died.
As it turns out, the Asheville Citizen-Times reports, that same physician was the subject of a 2007 medical malpractice lawsuit stemming from an earlier serious birth injury.
The older civil lawsuit stems from a birth in which the child allegedly suffered permanent disability in one of her arms due to decisions made during her birth at a local hospital. The original complaint indicates the girl was born in October 2005, and that her mother was in labor for far too long. The doctor should have initiated a Cesarean section, the lawsuit alleged, but he failed to do so.
Matters were complicated by the fact the baby suffered shoulder dystocia, meaning the child’s shoulders got stuck in the birth canal.
The girl, now 9, has permanently lost normal use of her arm and hand. Additionally, she sustained a number of skull fractures at birth. However, she incredibly evaded neurological damage.
Specifically, the lawsuit alleged defendant physician refused to abandon attempts at a vaginal delivery, even though the facts of the situation contraindicated natural birth in this case, and previous attempts were unsuccessful. It was also alleged the doctor allowed the mother to attempt vaginal delivery even though the first and second stages of labor were abnormal and even though the path of fetal descent was abnormal and included shoulder dystocia. Cesarean section should have been initiated, the lawsuit alleged, but was not. For this reason, plaintiff alleged, doctor was careless, reckless and negligent.
Defendant doctor, however, never responded to this Asheville birth injury lawsuit. For that reason, the trial court entered a default judgment against the doctor and his clinic. (The hospital was not named in the default judgment.) Although the doctor never actually conceded truth to plaintiff’s allegations, the default judgment means basically, the allegations set forth in the complaint are accepted at face value.
It is not clear whether a settlement was reached, though most settlements are concluded before a trial court judgment is issued.
All of this brings us to the cases currently under investigation by the state.
Although the review is pending and the doctor has agreed not to practice obstetrics medicine until the final report is issued, a medical board expert who analyzed the existing data has found the doctor’s diagnosis, treatment and care in the three cases resulting in infant death following home births were “below the standard of practice and care” for health care professionals similarly situated.
This is precisely the standard that must be met in civil litigation alleging medical malpractice in North Carolina.
The doctor has refuted that characterization, arguing these were among those situations were “unavoidable, deeply sad things do occur.”
And indeed, a poor outcome in and of itself is not proof of medical malpractice. However, when a physician fails to provide an acceptable level of care to his or her patients, that is grounds for civil action.
Contact the Carolina injury lawyers at the Lee Law Offices by calling 800-887-1965.
Asheville doctor in home-birth deaths sued in 2007, March 12, 2015, By Sabian Warren, Citizen-Times
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