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Failure to diagnose at center of medical malpractice case

Parents -- especially new ones -- have many fears. Most new parents are both overly tired and inexperienced, leading to countless trips to the doctor and sometimes the hospital. For new parents, their pediatrician often calms them and puts most newborn illnesses into perspective. However, for one Maryland couple, their fears were falsely allayed by a physician. This ultimately resulted in a lawsuit, alleging that their baby daughter's brain damage was caused by the pediatrician's failure to diagnose her illness.

Her parents had taken her to the pediatrician twice shortly after birth, and while an abnormally high heart rate was recorded on both occasions, the doctor did not diagnose a heart problem. He did not make any referrals either. Shortly thereafter, when the baby was having a hard time breathing and was taken to the hospital in an ambulance, she lost consciousness and had to be revived. A congenital heart defect was discovered in the hospital and, during the surgery to repair it, the baby's heart stopped.

Unfortunately, the baby suffered brain damage and is now a severely disabled 5-year-old. The baby's parents sued the pediatrician who had treated their baby, claiming he had failed to properly identify the abnormally high heart rate and order additional testing. In the event that the doctor was unsure, they believe he could have made a referral. The defense argued that there was no negligence because it was impossible to diagnose the defect before it manifested itself. The jury, in its verdict, agreed with the parents and awarded them $7 million in damages.

There are options available to Maryland parents who feel their child's well-being has been jeopardized by negligence on the part of a doctor or hospital's failure to diagnose. While a monetary award pales in comparison to a happy and healthy child, it can help reduce the burden of medical bills that result from someone else's negligence. Maryland parents who feel their child's health has been compromised in a similar way may wish to pursue the options that are available to them.

Source: Cumberland Times-News, Jury renders multi-million verdict in malpractice lawsuit, Matthew Bieniek, Oct. 25, 2013

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