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Wayne Parsons
Wayne Parsons
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Legal Case Study: Hospital Liability, Nursing Negligence – Improper Handling of Fetal Distress.

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In this case a woman in her 32nd week of pregnancy had a fetal monitor show that her baby was experiencing tachycardia. The patient was admitted to a hospital for several days and was administered magnesium sulfate and other treatment to avoid preterm labor. On the fourth day of her hospitalization, she experienced significant signs of fetal distress including loss of variability, late decelerations and sustained tachycardia. The attending nurses documented these symptoms but did not notify a physician for several hours. A perinatologist then ordered a Cesarean section which was performed about an hour and a half later. The baby whose Apgar scores were 5 at one minute and 8 and five minutes, was later diagnosed as having brain damage and cerebral palsy. The child survived but at 8 years of age cannot speak, feed himself, walk or perform other normal activities of daily living.

In this case the hospital, which employed the attending obstetrician, and the perinatologist were guilty of improper handling of fetal distress. This included the nurses’ failure to timely notify a physician of the baby’s worsening condition and failure to recommend and perform an earlier Cesarean section.