Grossly negligent medical care left a newborn child with permanent brain damage, according to a new medical malpractice lawsuit filed in Oklahoma. In court records obtained by CaringForSpecialNeedsKids.com, the family demands nearly $10 million in compensation. The child, named only as TEM, has not yet reached his second birthday.
Parents Say “Gross Negligence” Led To Brain Injuries
The complaint, initiated by parents who now live in Texas, accuses obstetrician Mark Melton of providing reckless maternal care. Alongside Dr. Melton, the family has leveled serious allegations of nursing negligence against Mercy Hospital Ardmore, a facility in Oklahoma where the mother underwent labor and delivery.
Despite numerous signs of fetal distress, Dr. Melton and his obstetric team systematically failed to deliver TEM in a timely manner, the family claims. These alleged failures allowed the infant to suffer oxygen deprivation. The complaint does not outline whether or not TEM has been diagnosed with a medical condition beyond brain injury.
OK High Court Strikes Down Affidavit Requirement
In previous years, birth injury lawsuits filed in Oklahoma were held to a higher standard than other civil lawsuits. Pursuant to a now-repealed state law, the majority of malpractice plaintiffs in the State were required to submit an “affidavit of merit” along with their initial complaint. Written and signed by an independent medical expert, this affidavit provides the court with a detailed outline of the allegations involved in the case, ending with the expert’s opinion that the case has merit.
Similar statutes are operative in many other states, but Oklahoma’s version has actually been struck down twice as unconstitutional by Oklahoma’s Supreme Court. As Harvard Law School writes, the State’s highest court has held that any affidavit of merit requirement – even one expanded to include all cases of professional negligence – erects an arbitrary barrier between cases involving malpractice and other civil actions.
Despite Oklahoma’s law no longer being in force, the family who filed suit against Dr. Melton and Mercy Hospital Ardmore included not one, but two, affidavits of merit along with their complaint. In many cases, Oklahoma plaintiffs who believe they have iron-clad claims of malpractice continue to provide affidavits of merit voluntarily.
Experts Weigh In On Medical Negligence Claims
In a signed affidavit submitted along with the complaint, Dr. Jeffrey L. Soffer provides his own analysis of the family’s allegations. A Fellow of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Dr. Soffer writes: “the healthcare providers in this case should have moved faster to get [TEM] delivered.”
Soffer continues, saying that, based on medical records and his own knowledge of proper obstetric practice, the family’s medical team “failed to appreciate the significance” of TEM’s apparent health deterioration, including logged indications of fetal distress. While a Cesarean section would have been warranted under the circumstances, according to Dr. Soffer, Dr. Melton and his obstetric team failed to uphold the standard of care.
Nurse Claims Medical Team Missed Warning Signs
A second affidavit, prepared by obstetric nurse Michelle Linda Murray PhD, provides even more support. In her own statement, Murray calls into question the medical team’s use of Pitocin, a drug often employed to spur difficult labors. After reviewing relevant medical records, Murray determined that the administration of Pitocin would have been “contraindicated” in this situation, noting a particular risk of uterine rupture.
As the obstructed labor continued, Murray writes that “it should have been clear to any reasonable nurse […] that plans needed to be instituted for Cesarean section.” No such plans were made, Murray says. Instead, the protracted labor was allowed to continue, leading to uterine rupture. This apparent failure, the nurse states, constituted a “deviation and breach of the standard of care required of obstetrical nurses.” She continues to denounce a “lack of communication regarding significant events during labor.”
The case was filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma on March 9, 2017. It has been logged as case number 6:17-cv-00094-SPS, according to Law360. Magistrate Judge Steven P. Shreder has been assigned to preside over the birth injury lawsuit.