The stories behind many malpractice lawsuits are heartbreaking, and none more so than the cases involving the deaths of children. When parents put their child in the care of medical professionals, they place a profound level of trust in others. When doctors and other care providers fail in their duty to provide care that is up to professional standards, and the child is injured or dies as a result, the parents may be able to hold them liable for their damages.
This topic can make people very uncomfortable. No award in a lawsuit can bring back a lost loved one or heal all the emotional wounds suffered by a family. However, compensation can help families cope with the aftermath of a tragedy, and can serve other causes.
A tragic case illustrating this point played out recently here in Massachusetts.
Infant died during test
The case involved a 6-month-old boy who died at the prestigious Boston Children’s Hospital. According to a news report, the boy had achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism. Both parents have the condition as well. Many children born with this genetic condition have severe sleep apnea when placed in car seats, and so the hospital was monitoring the child’s breathing.
The child had already gone through similar tests on other occasions, and technicians had noted times when his oxygen levels dropped to dangerous levels. In this final test, hospital staffers had technical trouble with the monitoring equipment. They allegedly spent so much time trying to fix the problem that they failed to notice that the infant’s oxygen levels were dangerously low for 20 minutes or more.
The boy suffered severe brain damage and died about two weeks later.
$15 million settlement
The boy’s parents filed a medical malpractice lawsuit against Boston Children’s, arguing that the hospital’s failure to provide professional-standard care led to the infant’s death. Ultimately, the hospital gave them a $15 million settlement – reportedly one of the largest of its kind ever recorded in Massachusetts.
Unusually for a case such as this, the settlement did not require the parents to sign a non-disclosure clause. Often, in an out-of-court settlement to a medical malpractice lawsuit, the hospital or other defendant will require the plaintiffs to agree that they will not talk about the terms of their settlement or the circumstances of the case.
In this case, the parents said they wanted to be able to talk about the case in order to alert other people with their condition about their particular risks for sleep apnea.