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Case upheld for death of newborn

In a wrongful death case involving complex constitutional and medical issues, a Connecticut Superior Court judge ruled that a Stamford physician may be sued for allegedly causing the death of a 2-hour-old baby while removing an intrauterine device from the mother. The legal issue was whether the 22-week-old baby -- who was born alive -- may be considered a plaintiff in this lawsuit.

The baby's mother sued as administrator of the estate. She alleged that she complained to her doctor in April 2011 that five months elapsed since her last menstrual period and that she requested that she remove the IUD that the doctor had earlier inserted. The doctor did not perform a pregnancy test and tried to remove the IUD with forceps. According to the lawsuit, this caused the rupture of the fetal membrane.

An ultrasound later determined that the mother was 20 weeks pregnant but the parents refused an abortion even though they were advised of the high risk associated with this pregnancy. She later went to the hospital with a maternal fever and high white-blood-cell-count, according to the suit. The baby died two hours after being born at 6:50 a.m.

The judge wrote that no other court previously addressed this complex issue. He ruled that Connecticut law indicates that there is a viability requirement for infants who are born alive when they were not viable fetuses immediately before their birth. A jury trial in this case is scheduled for Oct. 14.

He rejected the doctor's arguments that dismissal of the lawsuit was warranted because it was undisputed that the baby was not viable at the time of death and that Connecticut law requires viability for this suit to continue. The doctor's lawyers also claimed that the U.S. Supreme Court's precedent-setting Roe v. Wade abortion decision supports this viability argument. The plaintiff, however, argued that the viability standard was used where a fetus dies in utero and did not apply when the baby is born alive.

A Connecticut wrongful death cause of action, as this opinion indicates, may involve complex matters and constantly-evolving legal and medical issues. Prompt legal assistance can help family members seek compensation for the loss of a loved one and allow them to pursue their rights in legal proceedings in trial and appellate courts.

Source: Connecticut Post, "Judge: Doctor can be sued for death of 2-hour-old-baby," By Daniel Tepfer, Aug. 26, 2015

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