A jury awarded a family $7.4 million for the brain damage that their child suffered as a result of an untreated infection at birth. The child, Paris Campen, suffered brain damage when the neonatal intensive care unit at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center failed to properly treat the newborn's infection.
As a result of the medical malpractice of the medical staff in failing to treat the birth related infection, the child developed meningitis which caused the child permanent brain damage. The child will have a permanent shunt in her brain to prevent excess fluid and further brain damage. In addition, she will undergo a lifetime of behavioral and physical therapy.
The child's mother, an emergency room doctor at UCLA Medical Center, had raised the issue of infection with the doctors at Cedars Sinai. They ignored her. This kind of arrogance is often at the root of medical malpractice and medical negligence. Doctors often ignore their staff members and nurses, who many times due to close contact with the patient are more knowledgeable of the patient's needs than the doctor. The arrogance in this case is even more remarkable in the doctors' refusal to listen to the child's own mother who happened also to be a doctor.
Meningitis in newborns is extremely serious. In addition, this type of birth injury is not so uncommon that it should not be checked if even remotely possible. Immediate diagnosis and treatment is essential to prevent, hearing loss, learning disabilities, and in this case brain damage. Failure to properly diagnose and treat meningitis in newborns is a significant departure from the standard of care expected in the medical profession.
Though this case occurred in California, these same issues arise in Albuquerque and throughout the state of New Mexico. Medical malpractice lawsuits in New Mexico are challenging to say the least. Doctors are given every benefit of the doubt under the law. In the case of public facilities, there are other layers of protection include Tort Claims Notice Requirements and Tort Claims limits. Moreover, doctors are highly respected throughout society so that juries are reluctant to find fault with physicians. The same type of arrogance that drives doctors to ignore their staff, nurses, mothers and fellow doctors also results many times of an absolute denial of responsibility even in clear cases of negligence. Couple all this with all the nonsense regarding tort reform, and the constant barrage of misinformation regarding the strain that these types of cases place on the medical profession, and medical malpractice claims of any kind face an uphill battle.
However, in cases like this where a child is permanently harmed through the gross negligence of a medical staff explained only by the refusal of the doctors to acknowledge the concerns of a mother and fellow medical professional, the jury obviously felt the doctors' care fell so far below the medical industry standard care that a strong message had to be sent.
A verdict, even a $7.4 million verdict will never fully compensate a child and a family burdened with a lifetime of suffering. However, these verdicts serve society in forcing a medical profession buttressed by the support of tort reformers and opportunistic politicians to behave responsibly. The medical profession must recognize that with its great privilege comes great responsibility, perhaps at least in this case, the greatest responsibility of all which is to protect defenseless newborns and their families from preventable harm.