A Cook County, Illinois jury awarded $53 million to Lisa Ewing and 12-year-old Isaiah Ewing for permanent brain damage that Isaiah suffered at birth due to negligence on the part of medical professionals at the University of Chicago Medical Center (UCMC). Of the total award, $28.8 million is for future medical expenses and the round-the-clock care Isaiah will require for the next 65 years. Isaiah’s severe cerebral palsy confines him to a wheelchair. His mother has to clothe and feed him. The award is one of the largest medical malpractice awards in the area and the highest birth injury verdict in the history of Cook County.
The birth injury and permanent brain damage
According to the Chicago Tribune, Lisa Ewing was at full term of her pregnancy when she was admitted to UCMC. She was experiencing less than normal movement from her baby. Attorneys for Lisa and Isaiah listed 20 missteps made by the doctors and nurses of UCMC that included inadequate monitoring of both the baby and mother, not performing a cesarean section in a timely manner, failing to watch for abnormal fetal heart rate and other patterns indicative of stress on the baby, and not following a proper chain of command. The Ewing’s Chicago medical malpractice attorney said that UCMC’s own medical records indicated Isaiah suffocated at birth and suffered hypoxia. However, at trial, lawyers for UCMC attempted to argue that the hospital’s medical records were not accurate and Isaiah actually suffered from a phantom infection that attacked his brain and the medical professionals had no way of knowing about it.
At a news conference after the verdict, the Chicago medical malpractice lawyer for the Lisa and Isaiah said that UCMC has been “completely unapologetic” for the previous 12 years and denied the overwhelming evidence that Isaiah’s brain damage was due to a birth injury caused by the negligence of hospital staff. He said that Lisa Ewing did not have any problems during her pregnancy. UCMC spokeswoman Lorna Wong said the hospital has “great sympathy” for the Ewings, but strongly disagrees with the jury’s verdict. Wong said Lisa Ewing was treated for an infection that could cause cerebral palsy. She said Isaiah’s oxygen blood levels were normal at birth and his injury occurred prior to the medical treatment cited by the plaintiff’s Chicago medical malpractice lawyer in the lawsuit.
The US ranks high in birth injuries and deaths
According to a report by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), there are almost six infant deaths for every 1,000 live births. While some deaths are due to genetic or other unavoidable issues, a disturbing number of birth injuries and deaths are preventable. The CDC report listed the following as the top ten causes of infant deaths:
- 1. Congenital defects- These are conditions and diseases that exist prior to birth, regardless of the cause. They can be genetic, from infections or actions of the mother such smoking and drinking during pregnancy.
- 2. Premature birth- This is a baby born at any time less than 37 weeks of gestational age. Known as preemies or premmies, these babies who survive are at great risk of cerebral palsy, developmental delays, and other problems.
- 3. Maternal complications- These involve the health of the mother during pregnancy and at birth.
- 4. Sudden infant death syndrome- Known as SIDS, it is the sudden and unexplained death of a child during their first year.
- 5. Accidents- These deaths include medical malpractice and accidental suffocation or strangulation of the infant in bed.
- 6. Complications of the umbilical cord or placenta- The umbilical cord supplies blood to developing babies. Problems with the supply will result in abnormalities and complications.
- 7. Blood infections- This is a serious condition that can lead to damaged organs and death.
- 8. Respiratory problems- Breathing disorders are rare in full-term infants, but common among preemies because the lungs develop late in the pregnancy.
- 9. Circulatory diseases- Common blood diseases include sickle cell disease, hemophilia, and leukemia.
- 10. Neonatal hemorrhage- This occurs in the first weeks after birth, most often after a traumatic delivery or occurrence of hypoxia.
The CDC analyzed the statistics of births in the US from 1998 to 2009 and determined the rate of severe birth complications skyrocketed during that timeframe. The CDC found 129 cases of serious birth complications for every 10,000 hospital births. That is a 75 percent increase over the rate in 1998. Also, the post-delivery complications for mothers more than doubled during the same period. Some infants encounter trouble due to unavoidable circumstances. But, too often, the complications are because medical professionals were negligent or did not follow the guidelines of reasonable care. Anyone who believes their child suffered a severe birth injury due to the negligence of those overseeing the delivery should consult with a Chicago medical malpractice lawyer.