A Kentucky jury awarded $1.4 million to a woman who witnessed the decapitation of her baby at delivery. The jury held the two doctors in attendance liable for the mother’s emotional distress. She suffers from post traumatic stress disorder as a result of the ordeal.
No Wrongful Death but Damages for Mother’s Emotional Trauma
The doctors had used a cerclage to keep the woman’s cervix closed. Despite this delivery ensued, with the baby exiting feet first. The doctors attempted to deliver the baby but neglected to remove the cerclage. This acted like a noose, and the baby’s head was severed.
Mark W. Mathys represented the woman, “There were no damages for wrongful death of the baby,” he said, “because the jury decided it would not have survived a normal delivery due to prematurity. But besides that, the mother witnessed the delivery first of the baby’s body and then of its severed head.
“Ms. Donelson suffers from post traumatic stress disorder as a result. She has DVD-like recall of what happened. She loves children and was pursuing a bachelor’s degree to work with them but has since abandoned that. Now when she sees children she recalls this tragedy.”
Mathys said that Ms. Donelson had been recuperating at her family’s home about a month when the decision was made to contact a lawyer. It was family members who did so.
It might be obvious to a someone who is not a doctor or a lawyer that something went wrong in this case. But because of the prematurity, it might also be easy to conclude that the baby’s death was unavoidable. That’s what the doctors said, after all.
Nor would a layperson necessarily know that the mother had herself been injured and was entitled to compensation. That makes a lawyer’s evaluation of a case so important.
“With emotional problems like PTSD ,” Mathys says, “people often don’t want to admit they’re suffering. They don’t know to seek help.”
This case also points out, again, the need for patients to be proactive in their medical care. Mathys says, “It helps if a family member or friend stays with a patient in the hospital. But even if you’re alone, like Ms. Donelson was, it’s important to be proactive in your own care to ensure you’re getting the attention you need when you need it. What’s also tragic is that Ms. Donelson did call for the nurse when she felt the baby coming, but they did not respond immediately.”
By: Arthur Buono
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