Lawsuit Alleges Delayed Cesarean Caused Hypoxia Stillbirth

Dawn Snyder | May 15th, 2014 | Posted in Cerebral Palsy Lawsuit News

Stillbirth Malpractice LawsuitA Chicago woman has filed a stillbirth malpractice lawsuit against the United States of America, which funded the health center where the woman’s baby suffered severe fetal hypoxia.

According to the federal complaint, filed April 9, 2104, in the Eastern Division of the Northern District of Illinois, the doctor employed by the clinic did not respond quickly enough to signs of hypoxia and fetal distress, which led to the baby girl’s death.

Stillbirth malpractice lawsuit alleges delays

According the the complaint, the plaintiff mother was 35 weeks pregnant in early July 2011 when she experienced contractions. She was admitted to labor and delivery at a Chicago hospital, where she was treated by an Access Community Health Network obstetrician, Dr. Zahida Mughal for two days.

While in the hospital, the unborn baby began to experience declining heart rates and what is known as a sinusoidal heart rate pattern. A sinusoidal pattern is rare and indicates that the baby may be at serious risk of severe fetal anemia, Rh disease, or severe hypoxia. If the doctor had delivered the baby at the first sign of hypoxia than two days later, the complaint alleges, they baby would have survived.

Effects of fetal hypoxia

Hypoxia is a restriction of oxygen. In fetal development, a certain amount of hypoxia is actually normal and necessary – it plays a part in stimulating the growth of organs and other body parts. But too much hypoxia causes severe and permanent injuries.

Excessive hypoxia can deprive a newborn of oxygen to the brain. Before, during, and immediately after delivery, medical staff needs to be on alert for signs of hypoxia in order to prevent fatal or lifelong consequences. If action is taken immediately when signs are detected, serious damage can be prevented. Fetal heart rate monitoring can be effective in detecting the early signs of hypoxia.

The effects of excessive hypoxia are irreversible. They include:

  • Death
  • Brain damage
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Learning disabilities
  • Developmental delays

Hospital staff should be on the lookout for signs of possible hypoxia complications. Some indicators before birth include:

  • Erratic fetal heart rate
  • Decreased fetal heart rate
  • Slowing down in fetal movement

Warning signs after birth include:

  • Low heart rate
  • Blue or pale skin
  • Poor reflexes
  • Weak cry or no crying
  • Difficult time breathing
  • Weak muscle tone

Lawsuit seeks damages for hypoxia stillbirth

The recent Illinois lawsuit attributes the baby’s hypoxia-related stillbirth to negligence by Dr. Mughal and hospital staff and alleges that they failed to:

  • Recognize serious changes in fetal heart rate that often indicate hypoxia
  • Properly monitor the fetus for signs of hypoxia or notice the signs of severe hypoxia until a slowed heart rate had continued for an unsafely long time
  • Deliver the baby by cesarean section immediately after discovering signs of hypoxia and fetal distress instead of two days later

The lawsuit seeks to recover $75,000 for the stillbirth malpractice. The baby leaves behind her parents and four siblings, all of whom experienced sudden extreme grief as well as financial loss.

Birth injury lawyers can help

Birth injuries related to hypoxia can quickly turn what should be a magical time in a parent’s life into a devastating event. The effects are often both emotional and financial.  If you believe your child’s birth injury may have been caused by labor and delivery malpractice, call Balkin & Eisbrouch for a free consultation.

There is no obligation and we will work with you to review the facts of your case and determine your options.


  1. American Family Physician, Interpretation of the Electronic Fetal Heart Rate During Labor, http://www.aafp.org/afp/1999/0501/p2487.html

  2. U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Early fetal hypoxia leads to growth restriction and myocardial thinning, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2519936/