Doctor’s Failure to Screen Surrogate Led to Maryland Baby’s Death

Having a baby is supposed to be one of life’s most joyous moments, but it can quickly become devastating if anything goes wrong. If you or someone close to you has suffered a fertility issue that you believe was caused by a doctor’s negligence, you need to reach out to a skilled Baltimore birth injury attorney who can help.

Recently, a couple in their 30s was having difficulty conceiving a child. They consulted an obstetrician and infertility doctor. The couple and the doctor agreed to use a gestational carrier. The couple picked a surrogate and sent the candidate to the fertility doctor for medical screening. The doctor informed the couple that everything was clear and did not indicate that the surrogate had any kind of condition in her medical history that would interfere with the pregnancy.

The surrogate gave birth to the couple’s child 25 weeks after developing preeclampsia during the pregnancy. The newborn child developed sepsis and died just three weeks after birth. The couple filed a malpractice claim against the fertility doctor, stating that the doctor failed to scrutinize the surrogate’s medical records prior to clearing her.

The plaintiffs argued that the doctor would have discovered the surrogate’s history preeclampsia in the year prior to the child’s birth if the doctor had reviewed the file properly. The couple also claimed that the doctor had a duty to tell the couple that the surrogate’s file had not been reviewed so that they could make a decision accordingly. The defendant doctor denied liability, maintaining that the surrogate did not inform her of any history of preeclampsia. The doctor’s expert testified that the doctor did not depart from the standard of care by taking the surrogate’s word about her medical history, and even if the doctor had known about the preeclampsia, it would not necessarily have disqualified the woman from selection as a surrogate.

The jury returned a verdict in favor of the couple, finding the fertility doctor breached the standard of care owed to the couple, which resulted in the child’s death. The jury awarded the couple $44.1 million in damages – an amount that was reduced to just under $900,000 under the Maryland state cap for damages.

The defendants appealed, among other things, on the ground that there was insufficient evidence to support the estate’s claim for the child’s conscious pain and suffering. The defendants argued that the couple had not offered scientific proof of a premature infant’s capacity to feel pain to establish their own mental suffering as parents. The court disagreed with the defendants’ opinion that scientific evidence of this kind was not necessary. The Court of Appeals explained that, based on the child’s cries and observations such as the medical staff “could not get her to stay still” when they would give her IVs and put tubes in her nose, there was sufficient evidence to create an inference that the child was suffering physical or mental anguish.

If you have suffered a fertility complication, or your child has suffered a birth injury due to a medical professional’s negligence, you may be entitled to compensation for your harm. While no amount of compensation can undo the harm, it can help pay for the expenses that often pile up after such an incident. At Arfaa Law Group, our Baltimore birth injury attorneys understand how to navigate these complex cases. For more information, call us at 410-889-1850 or online.

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