In June of 2014, Yong Juan “Maggie” Zhao tried to prevent the birth injury that has left her son Steven disabled and unable to participate in the types of activities that other five-year-olds take for granted. But her obstetrician, Dr. Paul Cruz, refused to provide Zhao with the cesarean section that she requested. The result was a permanent injury to Steven’s brachial plexus that has left him largely unable to use his right arm.
The birth injury that Steven suffered occurred at a federally supported clinic. The infant, who weighed more than 11 pounds when he was born, was Mrs. Zhao’s second child. Her first child was also what is referred to as macrosomic — meaning that their birth weight was more than 8 pounds, ten ounces — and that put her at risk for having a second very large child. Despite this the physician insisted upon a vaginal delivery, apparently believing that since Mrs. Zhao had successfully delivered the first time then she would again for Steven’s delivery. The child’s shoulders became stuck in the vaginal canal for nine minutes, tearing the nerves flowing from the neck to the spinal cord.
Judge Says Birth Injury Caused by Treatment Falling Below Standard of Care
The birth injury trial was heard by U.S. District Judge Nancy J. Rosenstengel, who said that the “clear risk” of Mrs. Zhao delivering another large child meant that the standard of care required greater attention. “Contrary to the government’s argument, the standard of care did not allow Dr. Cruz to simply assume that because Mrs. Zhao previously delivered a macrosomic baby that she could do so again this time without complications,” she said.
In addition to refusing to provide a cesarean section, the judge said that physician also failed to use the right tools to allow for accurate estimation of the infant’s weight. “If an ultrasound had been ordered at one of the final prenatal visits — or even when Mrs. Zhao presented in labor — everything that happened to Steven (and Mrs. Zhao, for that matter) could have been avoided. It simply may have never happened,” the judge said. The judge awarded the family $65,000 for medical expenses already incurred, $80,000 for future medical expenses, $2.6 million for future lost earnings, $1.5 million for permanent disfigurement, $2 million for pain suffering and emotional distress; and $2 million for loss of normal life.