Family Awarded $30M After Infant’s Intestine “Allowed to Die” in Hospital
A former military family was awarded $30 million in a lawsuit against a Hawaiian veterans hospital. According to the lawsuit, they brought their infant to the medical center in critical condition, but the hospital did not run a test until 19 hours later. The infant now requires round-the-clock intervention due to complications related to her intestines. A simple test would have revealed the problem right away. Instead, the plaintiffs claim that doctors “allowed their child to die” while failing to perform any emergency intervention.
This is not the first multi-million dollar verdict leveled against the medical center. The same hospital lost an $11 million verdict in 2015, $9 million in 2016, $25 million in 2018, $15 million in 2022, and most recently $30 million.
The baby presented to the hospital with a knot in her intestines that rendered her unable to digest food or pass stool. The hospital failed to recognize that her condition was acute and did not render aid immediately. Instead, she got the test and the medical intervention she needed after it was too late. Now, her life is sustained through the use of machines and tubes that go directly into her body. The cost of such care is extremely high and the infant’s quality of life has been reduced significantly.
Understaffing as a defense to medical malpractice
Understaffed hospital cannot claim that understaffing is a defense to medical malpractice. Under the law, one standard is applied to each case and that is the prevailing standard of care for the profession or specialty. While emergency room doctors tend to be held to a lower standard than general practitioners or specialists because they have to make split-second decisions on the fly, the family was successfully able to argue that the standard of care was breached in this case.
The doctors obviously failed to recognize that the infant was in a severe state of distress, and on that basis, they made the family wait 19 hours for a test that could have identified the issue and gotten her into surgery in time to save her intestine.
Who pays the damages?
Since the hospital was a military hospital, the money is paid by the federal government. The doctors who work at the hospital don’t face individual liability although they can be named in the lawsuit. Most doctors working for the VA and related public health care teams do not carry medical malpractice insurance. Instead, they are insured by the Federal Tort Claims Act. So, individual responsibility in these cases is difficult to come by.
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