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Med Mal Lawsuit Filed Against Nurses Following Newborn Smothering Death

It is a story out of a mother’s nightmare. A woman gives birth to a healthy child. As is customary, the nurses take the child and eventually let the mother bond with her new addition for the first time. They wrap the baby in blankets and place her in her mother’s arms. This is a one of those moments that a mother never forgets…cuddling her newborn for the first time, dreaming about where life will take the little bundle in the years and decades ahead. Exhausted after the grueling labor, the mother slowly drifts into a sleep while holding her baby.

She awakes later to horror. The child is still in her arms, but the young girl is not breathing. She died as a result of co-sleeping–being smothered without the ability to breathe.

This tragedy seems like something from a movie, but a similar story has lead to a recent medical malpractice lawsuit filed against a team of nurses.

Malpractice Lawsuit in Baby’s Death
A brief report on the new suit was published by NBC 2 Online. The report explains that a mother was heavily medicated while in the hospital after giving birth to her new daughter. The mother was given the baby to breast feed. According to the story, the mother told the nurses to come back and take the baby after she was finished. However, the nurses did not in fact come back for the child.

As a result of the medication, the mother claims that she dozed off while holding the newborn. She then awoke to find that the child in her arms was dead. It was only later that a medical examiner confirmed that the baby was smothered to death, caused by “co-sleeping” with her mother. Of course, infants are quite vulnerable and even brief pressure or being caught in certain areas can result in serious injuries like this one. It is an incredibly tragic reminder of the need to act with the utmost care at all times when dealing with young children.

The subseuquent lawsuit in the case raises some interesting legal principles. Should the nurses be held liable for the wrongful death?

As with all negligence cases, the law hinges on the reasonableness of the defendant’s conduct. Did they do something (or fail to do something) that a reasonable professional in the same circumstances would have done? In this case, that essentially means would a reasonable team of nurses have taken the child from the mother, checked more frequently, or not given the child to the mother at all considering the effect of the medication? If the standards of care in the profession were otherwise, then the nurses may be found liable for negligence and be held accountable for the tragedy. However, if the nurses’ protocol was standard, then it will be hard for the mother to win the case.

As a practical matter, much will come down to specific details as they were documented in the case. How long did the mother have the child? How much medication was she on and who knew about it? Did the nurses check on the breastfeeding mother? If so, at what intervals? How was the baby positioned with the mother and what blankets were used? All of these details affected the tragedy and therefore determine unreasonable conduct that could have caused the death.

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