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Did failure to answer emergency page lead to mother's death?

Though the headlines tell a story about a Catholic hospital attempting to reduce liability in a medical malpractice lawsuit by arguing that the fetuses that died could not be legally considered people, the real tragedy occurred in the operating room where the mother and the two fetuses died.

A 31-year old woman was 7 months pregnant and carrying twin boys in the womb. She felt ill and was taken to the examination room in the hospital. While vomiting and short of breath, medical staff attempted to resuscitate her at the same time that they were attempting to page the obstetrician that was on duty for emergencies that evening. The doctor never answered his page.

Legally, the hospital has the right to take advantage of any legal defense to reduce the amount of damages that a jury or court will award. Yet another and even more important question was why the doctor was not on hand to treat and possibly save the mother and the fetuses to begin with.

Attorneys that practice in the medical malpractice area first need to demonstrate that medical malpractice occurred. Proving up damages that patients have suffered only comes after proving the existence of malpractice. Yet medical malpractice cannot be defined narrowly to only include surgical or medication errors. It also includes the failure to respond and provide timely treatment.

Something as simple as failing to answer the page resulted in a pregnant mother not receiving the medical treatment she needed. The mother died within an hour of arriving at the hospital, so obviously time was of the essence in the providing of the medical treatment.

Source: Salon, "Catholic hospital argues fetuses aren't people in malpractice suit," by Katie McDonough, Jan. 24, 2013

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