Sanchez and Francisco Prudente brought a medical malpractice claim against Jolyn Chen and Minh Tien Tang, doctors employed in obstetrics and gynecology at the Community Regional Medical Center. A 12-member jury heard the case in the Fresno Superior Court following the death of their newborn named Jayden.
The jurors in Judge Mark Snauffer's courtroom were not convinced that the delivery executed by the defendants was performed negligently. Prenatal doctor visit records showed that the pregnancy was progressing well, except that the baby was slightly undersized. Approximately 36 hours after being admitted to the hospital, Jayden was delivered but was unresponsive and the heartbeat was unable to be revived.
Course of Events
Upon entering the hospital, Sanchez was under the care of Tang and Chen. Several hours later, a nurse noticed that the fetus had an irregular heartbeat and notified Chen. The nurse claimed the baby was “in distress” when Chen arrived with assistance from Tang. A vacuum-assisted extraction of the baby was attempted; however, they were unable to delivery Jayden in this manner. Sanchez was then rushed into surgery where the baby was delivered via cesarean section.
The defense stated that the doctors had adhered to the proper standards of care, yet considered the birth to potentially be high-risk. The plaintiffs asserted that the decision to attempt the vacuum-assisted delivery was an error and that the hospital staff had been told prior that a cesarean section was necessary. The claim contends that the delay in proceeding with the cesarean section caused the baby to die from a lack of oxygen stemming from metabolic acidosis.
Dr. Steve Rabin, a medical expert testifying on behalf of the plaintiffs, explained that preliminary monitoring indicated that the baby was struggling with extremes heart rates. He further stated that based on the position of the baby in the birth canal that vacuum-assisted delivery was not a viable option. At the conclusion of the highly emotional trial, the jury voted 11 to 1 in favor of the defendants.
Operative Vaginal Delivery
When medical tools or devices are employed in the delivery of a baby, it is referred to as an “assisted” delivery. This is an attempt to deliver the baby vaginally, but with tools necessary to allow the baby to exit the birth canal. These procedures are most common when the mother is physically struggling and the baby is facing potential complications. A vacuum-assisted delivery is an option sometimes considered instead of performing a cesarean section. In 2015 in the U.S., roughly 3% of deliveries were conducted in this manner.
Vacuum-assisted delivery has some inherent potential risks. The bones of a fetus at this stage are soft and susceptible to bruising or other damage when exposed to moderate force. The mother is also potentially at risk for internal tearing and other types of damage. The vacuum pump uses a soft cup that is placed on the head to manually assist in extracting the baby. This type of delivery is only considered to be an acceptable alternative method to cesarean section in some countries, as many do not consider it to be within their normal standards for medical treatment.