Every year there are millions of babies born around the United States. When deciding where and how to give birth a mother-to-be has many options. She may choose a traditional hospital birth, a home birth, a cesarean section, or a water birth. Every option has its risks, especially if their doctors do not take the proper precautions. And a failure to provide proper medical care during labor can have life-long consequences for the newborn patient.
In December 2011, expectant parents Amy Benton and Matthew Marino decided to have a water birth at the Legacy Emanuel Medical Center which is located in Portland, Oregon. A water birth is where a woman goes through labor or gives birth, or both, while in a pool of warm water. According to Benton’s attorney, Rich Rogers, Benton was told that she was an “ideal candidate for water birth.” However, this was not true as Benton’s pregnancy was not a low-risk pregnancy. When she was admitted to the Legacy Emanuel Medical Center, her son had an abnormal fetal heart rate. While Benton was in the tub as she went through labor, the baby’s heart rate was not being monitored continuously. Rogers stated that, had the midwives assisting with the birth been watching the fetal heart rate more closely, they would have seen that the baby was in distress much sooner.
Benton was removed from the tub later on and delivered her son vaginally. At this point, the newborn had been without oxygen for 15 minutes. Rogers stated, “The baby they pulled out appeared for all intents and purposes, dead.” The baby, whom the parents named Luca, did survive his birth. However, the lack of oxygen has left him permanently disabled. He now suffers from birth-induced cerebral palsy.
In August of 2014, Luca’s parents sued the hospital for medical malpractice. The lawsuit claimed that the hospital never warned them about the dangers of water births and they should have never approved Benton to have one. The lawsuit also stated that the hospital should have delivered Luca via an emergency c-section and stated that the parents were told “that midwives would consult obstetricians during the water birth, but that didn’t happen.“ In addition the suit stated that “He [Luca] was deprived of oxygen and medical staff didn’t resuscitate him before it was too late.”
In May of 2016, The Oregonian reported that the parents had reached a settlement with the hospital. The parents were originally asking for over $35 million from the hospital, in addition to requesting the judge to prevent the Legacy Emanuel Medical Center and other Legacy hospitals from performing water births. The terms of the settlement are confidential but The Oregonian did learn that the two sides settled for $13 million, which is the largest settlement “in at least a decade for a hospital birth malpractice case.”
Baby Luca is now 4 years old. He “can’t walk or talk, but he’s able to scoot around in a cart with wheels.” He also makes “cooing sounds” and smiles when someone says his name.