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$5 Million Jury Verdict Rendered in Hospital Malpractice Lawsuit

Hospital malpractice lawsuitA jury has awarded a former Lowell couple at least $5 million after finding Tufts Medical Center hospital staff negligent in their care of the couple’s newborn son in 2004. The child now suffers from a debilitating condition the parents allege could have been more easily managed if hospital personnel had responded appropriately at the time of the original diagnosis.

According to their hospital malpractice lawsuit, staff failed to properly treat the condition shortly after the child’s birth, leaving him with significant, life-long injuries.

Diagnosis delayed according to hospital malpractice lawsuit

The plaintiffs Peter Xu and Li Chen state in their complaint that their son was born prematurely at Tufts Medical Center in 2004. Approximately two weeks after his birth, the child was diagnosed with necrotizing enterocolitis, a gastrointestinal condition that is often linked to premature birth. Despite the diagnosis, Xu and Chen claim that their child’s diagnosis should have been made earlier by the Tufts neonatal intensive care unit.

However, when the boy began showing symptoms of his condition on a Sunday, the attending physician was not available to promptly assess the newborn. According to the attorney representing the plaintiffs, the hospital reduces its staff by 50 percent on weekends, which contributed to the lack of availability of a qualified physician. The plaintiffs further assert that if the child had received treatment sooner, medical staff might have been able to spare portions of the boy’s intestines that had to be surgically removed.

With portions of the intestine removed, the child must now be fed by a system of pumps and tubes that run all night long. Because the child cannot be left alone while the feeding system is operating, he must sleep next to his parents’ bed each night. The lawyer for the plaintiffs also stated that the parents live in regular fear of making a mistake with the feeding system that could result in the death of their son. He added that the boy will have to live with this debilitating condition for the rest of his life.

Hospital did everything medically possible

The hospital stands by its position that everything that could have been done medically for the childwas done by the hospital staff. In a statement quoted at, a hospital spokesperson stated, “We have reviewed this case thoroughly and Edward was monitored closely by a team of experienced medical experts. They performed early medical and surgical interventions to save his life, using the most advanced techniques available.”

The hospital added that while staff “feel deeply” for the family, there was nothing else medically that could be done for the baby. According to the hospital spokesperson, approximately half of all children born under similar circumstances in 2004 developed medical complications. Of that number, 15 percent died.

Despite claims by the hospital, the jury found two of the three defendants named on the complaint liable for malpractice. Those two hospital employees were the attending physician, Dr. John Fiascone, and the medical resident who treated the child, Dr. Theresa Willet.  A third employee, nurse practitioner Roberta Bowen, was also listed as a defendant on the complaint, but she was not found liable of malpractice by the jury.

The Suffolk jury deliberated for three days before deciding on the medical malpractice award. The jury initially awarded the plaintiffs $24.4 million, which would have grown to around $30 million once interest was calculated. However, an agreement made between the parties set limits on a possible jury award, with a maximum of $5.3 million. The plaintiffs could pursue additional legal action to raise that limit, under the terms of the agreement.