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U.S. Attorney General Sued in Stillbirth Malpractice Lawsuit

Fetal HypoxiaOn April 8, 2014, a Chicago plaintiff filed a stillbirth malpractice lawsuit against the U.S. attorney general, asking for more than $75,000 in damages in the death of her infant. The central argument is that the defendant failed to deliver the plaintiff’s baby in a timely manner when signs of hypoxia and fetal distress were discovered.

Stillbirth malpractice lawsuit reflects family’s sorrow

The plaintiff was admitted to Mt. Sinai Hospital in Chicago, Illinois with complaints of contractions on July 3, 2011. She continued to endure active labor through July 4, when it was discovered the unborn fetus suffered from heart decelerations consistent with fetal hypoxia. Dr. Zahida Mughal M.D. finally delivered the baby by c-section on July 5, but it was too late: the baby was stillborn.

The malpractice lawsuit states that the decedent is survived by her mother, father, and four siblings who “suffered extreme grief” from her wrongful death, and “have been deprived of her society, companionship, love, affection, aid and services.”

Fetal hypoxia and medical malpractice

When a woman is admitted to a hospital in labor, it is expected that the attending doctor will carefully monitor the mother and baby throughout labor. A heart monitor can easily detect fluctuations in heart rate that may signal signs of fetal hypoxia and distress. When bradycardia occurs, the fetal heart rate is below 60 beats per minute, and a Cesarean section should then be performed to deliver the baby as quickly as possible.

The stillbirth malpractice lawsuit contends that Dr. Mughal was expected to exercise a certain degree of skill and care in this situation. The defendant is being charged with the following complaints:

  • Failure to recognize that the heart rate decelerations began on July 4, which clearly indicated fetal hypoxia
  • Failure to examine and monitor the fetus for severe fetal hypoxia until prolonged bradycardia began on July 5
  • Failure to deliver the plaintiff’s baby by Cesarean section on July 4 when signs of fetal distress first appeared
  • Delivered a severely hypoxic baby by C-section, resulting in the baby’s death

Suing the U.S. government for negligence

It may seem strange for a plaintiff to file a malpractice lawsuit against the U.S. attorney general, rather than the doctor or the hospital involved. However, the Federal Tort Claims Act (FCTA) allows citizens the right to file lawsuits against federal employees, listing “the United States” as the defendant.

In fact, Access Community Health Network was a federally funded health center that employed Dr. Zahida Mughal M.D. and presented her as a “fully trained and qualified” professional in obstetrics. Therefore, the U.S. attorney general can be named in legal action for overseeing the training and staffing of such a facility.

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiff had filed a formal claim for damage, injury or death with a federal agency on September 9, 2013, but did not receive a timely response within six months. As a result, the family’s only legal recourse was to file this complaint.