A Pennsylvania judge for the Lackawanna County court has unsealed records from a birth injury case settled for $19.5 million, according to Law.com. The court records shed light on a case of hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, in which a baby was born with brain damage after being deprived of oxygen in the womb.

Mother Says Medical Team’s “Indifference” Led To Child Brain Injuries

The plaintiff mother sued her doctors, an obstetrics practice and two hospitals, accusing the defendants of showing “reckless indifference” to the health status of her unborn child. In court documents, the mother says her child was left unable to feed himself without a feeding tube. He is also unable to walk, crawl or stand, the plaintiff claims.

Infant Foot

The mother claims in her lawsuit that Wilkes-Barre General Hospital, Moses Taylor Hospital, private obstetrics practice OB-GYN Associates and two doctors failed to prevent her child from suffering severe brain damage.

According to court documents, the mother alleges that she went to OB-GYN Associates on September 6, 2012, 19 days before her baby’s due date. She told nurses at the clinic about her symptoms, which included headache, dizziness, back pain, hypertension and nausea. She also told them that her baby was not moving as much as usual.

The medical practice called Dr. Theresa Baseski, the obstetrician on-call, who works at Wilkes-Barre General Hospital. Dr. Baseski relayed her instructions to the OB-GYN Associates’ staff over the phone. The plaintiff was sent home and told to take Tylenol for her headache, use Bengay for her backache and to “eat bland food for the rest of the day,” according to her lawsuit.

The plaintiff returned to OB-GYN Associates the following day, complaining of similar issues. This time, she was seen by Dr. Lori DelGuadio, who performed a battery of tests. The tests turned up troubling evidence of a decreased fetal heart rate, along with an “abnormal biophysical profile,” but the plaintiff says that she was not immediately sent to the hospital.

Plaintiff Accuses Doctors Of Delaying Trip To Hospital

In her lawsuit, the mother accuses DelGuadio of delaying necessary medical treatment by waiting two hours before sending her to the hospital. She also says there was a delay in ordering the emergency cesarean section by which her child was ultimately delivered.

She also leveled allegations against Dr. Baseski and the staff at OB-GYN Associates, who she says should have ordered tests or performed an ultrasound when she first arrived at the practice. This alleged misconduct, as well as the staff’s instructions that she take Tylenol, Bengay and eat bland food, rose to acting “recklessly indifferent,” the plaintiff claims.

Pennsylvania Judge Rules For Transparency

According to unsealed court records, the birth injury case was eventually settled for $19.5 million in financial compensation. But we would not have any of these details without the decision of Lackawanna Court of Common Pleas Judge Terrence Nealon.

In a petition to the Pennsylvania court, the defendants argued that the settlement should be kept under seal to save themselves from public embarrassment. The defendants said that sealing the records would make them more likely to enter into settlement agreements in the future. They also argued that the settlement’s amount was not of interest to the general public.

Judge Nealon disagreed, writing,

“the secrecy interests identified by the defendants do not defeat the presumption in favor of open judicial records so as to justify the court-sanctioned secrecy of the settlements. Affording the public access to voluntary malpractice settlements also serves the public interest by serving consumers with information that they deem relevant to their health care decisions.”

In short, patients, including expectant mothers, should have access to information about alleged malpractice to better inform their health care decisions.

Judge Nealon denied the defendants’ petition to have the court records sealed permanently. The records were unsealed on October 21, 2018.