Legal Eagle Eye Newsletter for the Nursing Profession (6)4 Apr 98


Quick Summary: Based on their meticulous charting at the time of the events in question the nurses could give critical court testimony for the hospital and physicians. APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, 1997.


   In a recent case the Appellate Court of Illinois went through the records in great detail to bolster its decision to uphold a jury verdict that exonerated all defendants from blame over the death of a newborn infant shortly after an emergency cesarean.

   The lesson from this case is that detailed charting of events as they transpire is absolutely essential to defend a lawsuit in court several years or more later.

   Labor and delivery nurses noted the specific time the monitoring strips began to show a problem and that a physician came and looked at the strips within six minutes of being summoned.

   The nurses noted the exact time the cesarean was called, when the anesthesiologist and neonatologist each was phoned and where each was, when the mother went to surgery, when she was prepped, when anesthesia started and the exact time the incision was made. It all was within the accepted thirty-minute medical standard.

   A nurse noted carefully the appearance of the newborn, that he was not breathing and that a thick bloody mucus was extracted from the mouth and nose.

   The court concluded the fetus was essentially born dead, with its airways so hopelessly obstructed in utero that it could not be brought to life, despite the physicians’ best efforts. This was a tragedy, the court said, but there were no grounds for a negligence lawsuit. O’Donnell v. Holy Family Hospital, 682 N.E. 2d 386 (Ill. App., 1997).