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For the third time in four years, a medical malpractice case against Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii has resulted in a multi-million dollar ruling. A couple recently received payment from an $11 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit. In 2005, they arrived at Tripler Army Medical Center, the 2nd largest army hospital in the world, excited to welcome their new baby girl. Unfortunately, due to carelessness and communication errors among the staff, the couple now cares for a child that is severely handicapped for the rest of her life.

Shortly after admittance, the doctors said the baby was showing signs of distress and had to be delivered immediately. What happened next is appalling; the mother waited over an hour for the procedure to begin. It wasn’t until the fetal monitor strip showed the baby was near death that the delivery was expedited. When the little girl was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped tightly around the infant’s neck and she was experiencing severe difficulties breathing. A first-year intern inserted a tube down her esophagus instead of her trachea, resulting in oxygen being pumped into her stomach rather than her lungs. This went on for 40 minutes, resulting in the brain injury. If that wasn’t bad enough, the medical team also did not properly clamp off the baby’s umbilical cord, resulting in severe bleeding, and the need for a blood transfusion

The couple’s lawyer said inexperienced doctors made several major medical errors during the baby girl’s delivery that resulted in the girl needing 24-hour care for the rest of her life. She has cerebral palsy and permanent disabilities; she will never walk or talk, and will need to be tube-fed for the rest of her life. The settlement ensures this little girl will receive the care she needs.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time Tripler Army Medical Center was involved in a medical malpractice lawsuit due to careless and reckless behavior. In fact, the medical center has paid out claims in at least three child-related cases in the last ten years The most notable cases resulted in a 2006 judgment of $16.5 million and a 2007 judgment of almost $9.5 million – both for children who suffered massive brain damage while being treated.

Tripler responded to the latest case saying:

"Tripler’s commitment to providing the highest quality medical care to our active duty service men and women, their families and dependents, and the larger Hawaii community has never been greater. Patient safety is at the heart of everything we do. Tripler has completed an extensive review and evaluation of this case and has already implemented important changes designed to ensure that similar tragedies do not occur in the future."

It is unfortunate that Tripler has not consistently put safety first; the "extensive review" promised coupled with the implementation and enforcement of minimal safety standards may prevent further incidents. It is almost unbelievable that that center had not learned from previous incidents and previous multi-million dollar lawsuit pay-outs. Usually, hospitals and clinics make important, life-saving changes when they get hit for these types of verdicts. Had Tripler done so, this young girl would mostly likely be a healthy, active child attending school, running around the playground, and doing all the things a young child does. Let’s hope that Tripler’s quoted statement is true, that, at long last, safety of all the service men and women that seek treatment at the medical center will be a priority and "similar tragedies" will not occur. Hopefully, this will never happen to another Tripler child.

Mark Bello has thirty-three years experience as a trial lawyer and twelve years as an underwriter and situational analyst in the lawsuit funding industry. He is the owner and founder of Lawsuit Financial Corporation which helps provide legal finance cash flow solutions and consulting when necessities of life litigation funding is needed by plaintiffs involved in pending, personal injury litigation. Bello is a Justice Pac member of the American Association for Justice, Sustaining and Justice Pac member of the Michigan Association for Justice, Business Associate of the Florida, Tennessee, and Colorado Associations for Justice, a member of the American Bar Association, the State Bar of Michigan and the Injury Board.

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