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Albany County, NY

In this medical malpractice matter, the plaintiff alleged that the defendants were negligent in severing the decedent’s uterine arteries during a Caesarean section and then failing to control the bleeding, resulting in the untimely death of the 32-year-old mother. The defendants denied liability and causation.

The 32-year-old female decedent presented to the defendant, Albany Medical Center, on September 3, ________. Her child was delivered by Caesarean section by the defendant, Dr. Lee. During the procedure, either the defendant, Dr. Lee, or his assistant cut or tore the decedent’s uterine arteries. She suffered a severe obstetrical hemorrhage while in the operating room, losing approximately 60% of her total blood volume. The defendant, Dr. Lee, was made aware of the massive maternal hemorrhage by the anesthesiologist and the decedent was then discharged from the operating room.

After being discharged from the operating room at 10:35 a.m., the decedent was admitted to the post anesthesia care unit (PACU) where she remained until 12:30 p.m. when she was transferred to the surgical intensive care unit (SICU). From the time she was admitted to the PACU until her discharge to the SICU, the decedent experienced hypotension, tachycardia, minimal urine output and metabolic acidosis. While she was in both the PACU and SICU, the decedent continued to experience severe hemorrhagic shock. Her condition continued to deteriorate throughout the day and a second operation to explore her abdomen was performed by the defendant, Dr. Lee, at 7:00 p.m. that evening. The surgery revealed that the decedent’s retroperitoneal cavity was full of massive blood clots that had resulted from continued internal bleeding. Dr. Lee then requested that Dr. Pfeifer, a trauma surgeon, take over the surgery.

Dr. Pfeifer testified that he saw what he described as being "one of the largest retroperitoneal hematomas" that he had ever seen and stated that there were at least two or three liters of blood in the retroperitoneum. Dr. Pfeifer also testified that he had previously reviewed the decedent’s chart, shortly after she arrived in the SICU, and had told another doctor that he believed that the decedent was bleeding internally and needed to be returned to the operating room. The decedent died from uncontrolled bleeding at 1:23 a.m. on September 4th. She is survived by her husband, the plaintiff, and two children.

The plaintiff brought suit against the defendant hospital and the doctors involved, alleging negligence. The plaintiff alleged that while repairing the damage done during the Caesarean section, Dr. Lee damaged the uterine arteries in the plaintiff’s retroperitoneum. It was from those damaged vessels that the decedent continued to bleed internally. The plaintiff alleged that the defendant, Dr. Lee, was repeatedly advised by Dr. Thompson that the decedent was still bleeding internally and needed to be returned to the operating room, yet the defendant refused to return the decedent to the operating room for at least six hours.

The plaintiff also alleged and established through the proofs that the nurses at the hospital were negligent and the software on the OBIX Perinatal Data System monitoring machines caused the monitoring equipment to have a default setting that recorded normal values for the patient’s vital signs when the "add" button was pushed. Diane’s actual vital signs were not accurately being recorded while she was in the PACU. There was also testimony that the understaffing of the surgical intensive care unit was a chronic problem at the hospital with only one physician and one resident trying to treat the decedent and 25 to 30 acutely ill patients.

The plaintiff alleged that the defendants subjected the decedent to unnecessarily prolonged labor which resulted in an abnormal thinning of the decedent’s lower uterine segment and the baby’s head being stuck in the decedent’s abdomen, which made the Caesarean section more difficult and dangerous. The plaintiff alleged that the thinning of the lower uterine segment that contributed to the tearing of the uterine vessels and the resulting massive maternal hemorrhage during the procedure that set in motion the events that resulted in the decedent’s death.

The defendants denied the allegations. The various defendant doctors took the position that whatever happened was not as a result of any negligence on their part. Dr. Lee took the position that he had transferred the decedent’s care to the defendant, Dr. Thompson. The defendant hospital took the position that the negligence of the nurses in the PACU and staffing issues in the SICU were not the cause or the failure to diagnose the decedent’s condition and prevent her untimely death.

The parties negotiated a settlement consisting of a monetary component and a non-monetary component. Dr. Lee agreed to pay $________; Dr. Burack agreed to pay $________ and the defendant, Albany Medical Center, agreed to pay $________. The hospital also agreed to set up a fund to sponsor lectures on an annual basis for at least 20 consecutive years, as well as purchasing a simulator and change default settings on the OBIX perinatal data system.

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