When the pregnant young woman arrived at the hospital five years ago, doctors had disturbing news for her. The 16-year-old had dangerously high blood pressure, the physicians said. Worse, they told her that her baby was doomed to either die or suffer brain damage. Based on the doctors’ alarming report, the teenager decided to forgo a cesarian section – a decision that resulted in lifelong brain damage to her baby.
The young woman later filed a medical malpractice lawsuit that ended in a $229 million verdict, a sum her attorney said was the highest in medical malpractice verdict in U.S. history. Though the amount was later reduced to $205 million, that figure was recently upheld by a judge.
Though the case was decided about 200 miles south of Saddle Brook, it revolved around an issue important in all medical malpractice incidents: substandard medical care.
The young mother’s medical malpractice attorney said doctors at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center in Baltimore made a grave error: “They told her that she could terminate the pregnancy, and essentially gave her the indication that the baby was non-viable, which was wrong,” he said.
After she made the decision based on the bad information given her by physicians, she declined the C-section and hospital staff ended monitoring the fetus. During that time, not enough oxygen got to the baby’s brain resulting in permanent brain damage. The child, now nearly five years old, has cerebral palsy. She requires around-the-clock care.
The attorney said that the jury “made it very clear that they wanted to make sure that she was taken care of for the rest of her life.”
A Johns Hopkins Medicine spokesperson said the hospital will appeal the latest ruling.
The spokesperson added that while these cases “are tragic and our hearts go out to this child and the people who are caring for her,” the hospital system believes it “appropriately informed her multiple times of all of the risks associated with her decision.” None of that will help to pay for the lifetime of care the child will need, of course, or undo the bad information given to the young mom.