Last week, a Frederick County jury found two doctors responsible for Ryan Dineen’s cerebral palsy and awarded the boy and his mother, Suzette Dineen, $4 million in damages. The award is thought to be the highest awarded for medical malpractice in the county.
According to the cerebral palsy lawsuit, Ryan’s mother had arrived at the hospital shortly after 5:00 a.m. on May 7, 2000 with severe abdominal pain, diarrhea and vomiting. She was eight months pregnant.
Hospital protocol is that women beyond 20 weeks of pregnancy who exhibit such symptoms be monitored in the labor and delivery suite. But Suzette Dineen was instead monitored by nurses in the emergency room for three hours before a physician saw her.
The physician had been called in because the nurse was unable to locate the baby’s heartbeat, which the obstetrician determined was low and ordered an emergency caesarean section. By this time, the complaint said it was about 8:20 a.m. and Ryan was born approximately 15 minutes later.
His heart was not beating, he was not breathing and he needed to be resuscitated. Consequently, Ryan suffered brain damage resulting in injuries that will lifelong care.
"In the right case, with the right set of facts, the Frederick County jury responded like anyone would respond. I think that tells us something: that they’re concerned about accountability," the medical attorney for Ryan and his mother said.
Cases such as Ryan are extremely unfortunate, and there is no amount of money that can make up for what is lost. But it is possible to hold negligent doctors accountable, and hopefully this helps to save others from suffering similar tragedies.