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Investigation: Dislodged Breathing Tube Apparently Killed Newborn

Premature births can give rise to numerous complications for families here in Ohio and around the world. Like many premature infants, one newborn required a breathing tube after being born nearly three months early. That baby died after a severe oxygen starvation-related brain injury earlier this year and an investigation concluded that a dislodged breathing tube was probably at fault.

A number of complications and possible medical errors preceded the infant's death. At birth, the infant required resuscitation, an incubator, and ventilation. One doctor had difficulty inserting a breathing tube and had to resort to a smaller size. The doctor told investigators that, despite the baby's premature lungs, he was not concerned about her progress.

Several medical decisions attracted the investigators' attention. The lead physician set the infant's treatment plan although he had no incubation training. But despite fluctuations in the baby's condition and blood oxygen levels, the doctor did not believe that the baby needed treatment from a specialist.

Ultimately, the breathing tube became dislodged for unknown reasons. Deprived of oxygen overnight, the baby suffered a severe hypoxic brain injury. The baby died two weeks later.

The investigation itself demonstrates some of the difficulties of a possible medical malpractice case. Despite the readily available evidence and treatment records, doctors and experts disagreed about several aspects of the treatment plan. One doctor also said that the hypoxic brain injury could have resulted from a number of premature birth-related causes other than oxygen starvation.

Many medical malpractice cases come down to this kind of debate between experts on each side.

Source: Daily Mail, "Newborn baby died from 'severe brain injury' after breathing tube became dislodged while she recovered in hospital," Anna Edwards, Sept. 14, 2012

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