A jury for the US District Court of Western Pennsylvania has awarded $47 million to a young girl and her family for “disfiguring injuries” she suffered due to post-natal care. The child, now five-years-old, received “unusual treatment” directly after birth, according to the Tribune-Review.
After misdiagnosing an internal hemorrhage, Johnstown pediatrician Dr. John O. Chan ordered the child’s head wrapped in ACE bandages, a “therapy” that ultimately led to widespread and extensive tissue death. Now five-years-old, the young girl will require multiple invasive surgeries.
Family Wins $47 Million For Daughter’s Birth Injuries
After a four-day trial in the Pennsylvania federal court, jurors decided that Dr. Chan, along with the Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, owed the young child and her parents a total of $47 million in compensation, including $3.3 million for her future medical expenses.
Pediatrician’s Negligence Undeniable, Judge Holds
Interestingly, the jury didn’t consider the question of whether or not Dr. Chan and the hospital should be held liable for the girl’s severe birth injuries. That decision had already been made by District Judge Kim R. Gibson, who found that “no reasonable jury” could ever absolve the physician of responsibility.
In her pre-trial findings, Judge Gibson noted that plaintiffs’ attorneys had “presented overwhelming and unequivocal evidence” that Dr. Chan had deviated from the standard of care when he wrapped the infant’s head in ACE bandages, hoping to treat swelling.
Unusual ACE Bandage Therapy Caused Disfigurement
Soon after her birth, the girl was diagnosed, via a simple physical exam, with a “large right-sided cephalohematoma,” court documents report. Cephalohematoma is a form of hemorrhage in which blood pools between the skull and a layer of tissue that surrounds the skull.
A CT scan, however, showed no evidence of subgaleal hemorrhage, a more serious form of internal bleeding that can lead to brain damage in severe cases. Inexplicably, the parents wrote in their lawsuit, Dr. John Chan diagnosed their daughter with a “probable subgaleal hemorrhage,” despite convincing evidence to the contrary.
Misdiagnosis & Inconceivably Negligent Treatment
The same day, Dr. Chan ordered head to be wrapped with an ACE bandage “as a pressure dressing.” A physician’s assistant carried out the order. The newborn’s head remained wrapped in the ACE bandage for over 24 hours before it became clear that fluid was beginning to build up below the wrapping. The girl’s head “was oozing serious fluid with increased edema” by 8 p.m. the day after her birth. Her head wrapping was loosened, but not removed.
Early the next morning, nurses noted in medical records that the young child’s head was “draining serous fluid” through her head wrap. The flow grew over the next six hours. At the same time, she’d become “unable to open her right eye from severe swelling in her right upper eyelid,” the lawsuit says.
Widespread Tissue Death
Nearly two days after the ACE bandage was first applied, Dr. John Chan (or a nurse practitioner) ordered the wrapping removed. “Abrasions of both sides of her head with areas of dark bruising on her upper forehead were immediately identified,” court records report.
And, while the swelling in her right eye began to improve, a number of large sores, necrotic, or dying, tissue, had opened on her scalp and forehead.
The next day, “pressure spots caused by the Ace Bandage head wrap were noted on [the child’s] head with scattered areas of necrosis on both sides of her scalp and forehead and she continued to drain large amounts of serous fluid.”
Two Pediatric Surgeons Confirm Causation
In subsequent investigations, two pediatric plastic surgeons confirmed that the young girl’s injuries had been “caused by pressure-induced tissue ischemia / necrosis.”
The ACE bandage ordered by Dr. Chan, according to these physicians, had cut off the blood supply to her scalp, causing extensive tissue death.
Today, at 5 years of age, the attorneys say, the girl’s “head and scalp are horribly scarred and disfigured and her wounds have still not completely healed.” In the coming years, she will require “multiple, extensive, highly risky and painful reconstructive surgeries on her head and scalp.”
Doctor Admits To Violating Standard Of Care
Even more shocking than these allegations is that, during pre-trial depositions, Dr. John Chan admitted to his medical negligence. As Judge Gibson notes in the court order announcing her decision on liability, the physician had “explicitly testified that his conduct did not meet the standard of care.” As a result, the Court found it inconceivable that any reasonable jury would exonerate the man.
Nor could any reasonable jury reject the conclusion that Dr. Chan’s strange “therapy” had directly caused the girl’s injuries, which include a deformed head, for which she will require surgery in the future, and an inability to grow any hair on her scalp. The defense “failed to present any evidence that could reasonably support an alternative theory of causation,” Judge Gibson writes.
Jury Compensates Child For 77 Years Of Medical Care
The jury estimated the girl’s medical needs for the next 77 years, attempting to compensate her form medical treatments lasting until 2095, when she will be 82 years old. The remaining $43.75 million is designed to compensate her for her pain and suffering, embarrassment and humiliation, loss of ability to enjoy the pleasure of life and disfigurement, according to court records.
Chan administered the “treatment” at the Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center, a hospital in Johnstown, soon after the newborn girl, a preemie, was delivered. Attorneys for the family believe that the $47 million award is, in all likelihood, one of the largest to be delivered in a Pennsylvania medical malpractice case.