Pediatric Emergency Medicine: Legal Briefs

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A baby was born by cesarean delivery in Illinois and was found to be a normal healthy baby by both a family physician and a neonatologist.1 She was discharged from the hospital. Over the next few weeks, she was seen by the family physician for routine well-baby checkups. The infant’s mother reported that she was eating and stooling normally and growing at the expected rate. The mother had no complaints. At age 2 months, the infant’s mother took her to a local emergency department (ED) with complaints of uncontrollable crying and constipation with “stringy stools.” The infant was diagnosed with an imperforate anus. She was transferred to another hospital, where she underwent a successful surgical repair.
The infant’s mother sued the family physician and the neonatologist who treated her after birth. She claimed that the doctors were negligent in failing to timely diagnose the defect, causing the baby to endure pain and suffering during the surgery. The defendant physicians contended that the baby had no symptoms until the time she was taken to the ED. They argued that the condition was so subtle that it could not have been diagnosed or repaired until symptoms presented. They noted the surgery performed would have been no different if it had been diagnosed earlier.
A jury found in favor of the physicians.
Cook County, IL, Circuit Court, Case no. 16L-733.
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