| December 20, 2005
Shotgun lawsuit: Sued for a stillbirth. The ER doc consulted with the patient’s OB, and then is still sued for the stillbirth. Not sure what more he could have done – override the specialist’s instructions?
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I’m an ex-ER doc. We used to face this type of problem in the ER in the 80’s and what I would do was evaluate the patient in the ER and then “punt” the OB patient to L & D for non-stress test(monitoring of fetal heart rate) and have the nurse call the OB on call. We would get the patient back after a normal or negative non stress test for me to personally discahrge the patient. In the 90’s, all the hospital ER’s that I worked had the policy of sending all OB patients 22 or more weeks pregnant with abdominal complaints directly to Labor and Delivery. The ER doc in this case should have practiced defensive medicine. Along with talking with the OB doc,he should have sent the patient to L and D for non stress test. If the ER had a portable ultrasound, that could have been done in the ER to document the heart beat. Both are non invasive and give the appearance that he did everything possible. It would not prevent a lawsuit, but it would be difficult to find an expert witness to find negligence on the part of the ER doc. On the other hand, in this type of lawsuit, the award is usually small compared to cerebral palsy cases.
All above is true, except that these days many hospitals don’t have OB or labor and delivery even if they have an on-call OB. If this was the case he would have had to send her to another hospital for monitoring. Luckily for all docs involved, the fetus died, thus lessening the profits for the lawyers.
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