- MEDICAL MALPRACTICE - PLAINTIFF CLAIMS DEVIATION IN FAILURE TO DIAGNOSE NEONATAL HERPES - INFANT DIES LESS THAN TWO WEEKS AFTER BIRTH.
Stamford Judicial District, Connecticut (30530)
This case involved the death of an infant from disseminated
neonatal herpes less than two weeks after birth. The plaintiff,
the infants mother, contended that the infants pediatricians
were negligent in failing to test for herpes sooner and not
diagnosing the condition in time to save the babys life.
After the babys birth, when mother and baby were sent
home from the hospital, the baby developed what looked like a
rash. The defendant pediatrician diagnosed a staph infection and
prescribed oral and topical medication. Approximately two days
later, at a follow-up visit, the baby looked like he had
improved. Two days after the follow-up visit, the infant
appeared to be sick again and the plaintiff brought him back to
the pediatricians office. One of the doctors agreed that the
baby appeared sick and personally drove the infant to Norwalk
Hospital, where he was placed in the neonatal ICU and treated for
staph infection with intravenous antibiotic drugs. Again the
babys condition seemed to improve. The next day, however, the
infant took a turn for the worse and was driven to the hospital
at Yale University. At Yale University Hospital, the babys skin
lesions were tested for herpes which turned out positive.
Repeated herpes tests upon the mother, however, were negative.
At trial, the defendant pediatric group contended that its
doctors had not deviated. There was no reason to test for herpes
initially because the baby responded to the medication prescribed
for staph infection and appeared to be getting better. Moreover,
according to the neuropathologist from Yale who prepared a report
after the babys death, the baby had herpes in his brain very
early on, probably within a day or two of his birth. Earlier
treatment probably would not have made a difference in the
outcome since the prognosis for neonatal herpes is very grim. The
defendants experts neonatologist and pediatrician also stressed
that neonatal herpes is very rare, especially when the mother
does not have herpes and is largely untreatable. The plaintiffs
infectious disease expert disagreed with defendants contention
of grim prognosis and contended that the disease is treatable, as
long as it is caught early on.
The jury found that the baby should have been tested for herpes
earlier, but held that the lack of testing was not the proximate
cause of the plaintiffs damages. Judgment was entered in favor
of the defendant pediatric group.