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Army Specialist Alleges Negligence in Infant Son’s Fatal Birth Injuries

pregnant womanA birth injury lawsuit has been filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia against the federal government pursuant to the Federal Tort Claims Act. The complaint stems from negligence during a vacuum-assisted delivery alleged to have occurred at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, which the plaintiff asserts resulted in the death of her newborn son. The filing follows on the heels of the U.S. Department of the Army’s earlier denial of an administrative claim lodged by the plaintiff concerning the same series of events.

Active duty enlisted soldier alleges medical negligence

According to the complaint, during the pertinent time period, the plaintiff was an active duty Army officer working as a post-anesthesia care nurse at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital located in Alexandria, Virginia. In June of 2013, she was admitted to that very same hospital in order to deliver her own child. Fetal monitoring commenced, as did the administration of induction drug Pitocin.

Later the following day, fetal heart rate tracings began showing irregularities and possible fetal distress. As time went on, the signs of serious distress grew stronger, with late decelerations appearing with almost all contractions. Prolonged late decelerations were also noted, and for a 45-minute period, the baby was observed as tachycardic. Not long after, the fetal monitor registered a “Category 3 tracing,” an clearly abnormal indication signifying that the fetus was acidotic. Despite these extremely alarming signs, the plaintiff was given more Pitocin and instructed by the attending physician to keep pushing. No action was taken to commence emergency delivery via Caesarean section, and ultimately the baby was born via vacuum-assisted delivery.

At one point during the delivery, the vacuum dislodged itself from the baby’s head and had to be reapplied. During this time the baby was bradycardic and was noted at birth to be limp, pale and exhibiting a heart rate of 50 beats per minute. A Code Blue was initiated and resuscitation efforts commenced. The baby boy was pronounced dead less than one hour after his birth. Umbilical cord gases ultimately obtained from the baby were indicative of significant and progressive hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy.

Mother’s quest for answers blocked by hospital

Not long after the events in question, the plaintiff returned to work at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital, frequently encountering the physicians and staff members who attended the birth and death of her infant son. She attempted to learn more about the circumstances surrounding her baby’s death, but was repeatedly blocked by doctors and administrators at the facility who allegedly engaged in concerted efforts to conceal information regarding the case, prevent her from accessing her son’s and her own medical records and to blame the death on shoulder dystocia rather than unaddressed fetal distress and hypoxia.

Violations of standard of care alleged

In her birth injury lawsuit, the plaintiff alleges that the physician and staff members attending her son’s birth violated the applicable standard of medical care by:

  • failing to recognize and react to clear signs of fetal distress

  • failing to halt administration of Pitocin when fetal distress was apparent

  • failing to deliver the baby more quickly

  • failure to call for emergency C-section delivery

Pursuant to the Virginia Wrongful Death Act, the plaintiff is seeking all available damages, including but not limited to compensation for mental anguish, loss of society and companionship, loss of solace, funeral expenses and past, present and future sorrow.

Stanford Children's Health, Birth Injury,
The Merck Manual Home Health Handbook, Birth Injury,