One of the nation’s most prestigious hospitals finds its reputation tarnished this week after a jury agreed with a couple that the emergency room was responsible for the birth injury suffered by their son. The baby would have been fine, the parents argued, if the hospital had not waited two hours to perform an emergency cesarean section. Because of the delay, the baby faces a lifetime of hardship with severe and permanent physical and mental disabilities.

The jury awarded the family $55 million; because the state (not Oregon) has a cap on noneconomic damages — pain and suffering — the award will be reduced to about $29.6 million, according to the family’s attorney. The money will go into a trust to pay for the child’s care.

While the hospital plans its appeal, the boy’s parents have plans to provide round-the-clock professional in-home care for him. They also plan to build a new house that will be more accessible for him and that will accommodate the equipment he will need. Much of the money, though, will be used to pay for treatments not covered by the family’s health insurance.

The trip to the emergency room that day had followed an attempt to have the baby at home under the care of a midwife. Hospital representatives say the boy’s cerebral palsy and seizure disorder are the result of something that happened at home, not at the hospital. The family, and the jury, say the hospital was negligent in allowing the mother to wait so long while her unborn baby was in distress.

Mother and father said they didn’t fully understand their son’s condition for months. The boy will never walk and will never talk, they said, but he can smile.

Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Jury awards Waverly family $55 million in Hopkins malpractice case,” Yvonne Wenger and Kevin Rector, June 26, 2012