The 6-year-old daughter of a Pennsylvania state representative has been awarded more than $40 million in compensation for a birth-related spinal cord injury. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that on Tuesday, January 23, 2018, a jury for the Delaware County Court of Common Pleas determined that the young girl had received substandard care from Dr. Steven M. Troy, an obstetrician at Delaware County Memorial Hospital.
Grayson Charlton, the six-year-old daughter of Alex Charlton, the Republican State Representative for Pennsylvania’s House District 165, is paralyzed from the torso down. Isabella, her twin sibling, is not.
The sisters were born in 2011 at Delaware County Memorial, a hospital owned by Crozer-Keystone Health System in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania. According to court documents, Dr. Stephanie Pearson initially managed the labor and attempted to induce labor using the medication Pitocin. Dr. Pearson ultimately determined that a Cesarean section would be the best course of action under the given circumstances. She discussed the notion with Kira, the mother of the girls, who agreed to undergo the procedure. Then, at approximately 7:00 a.m. on March 3, 2011, Dr. Pearson transferred care to Dr. Steven Troy.
The “Excessive Force” of the Obstetrician-Caused Birth Injuries
According to the family’s legal complaint, Troy’s treatment was “aggressive.” According to court documents, instead of opting for the agreed-upon Cesarean section, Dr. Troy decided to deliver both children vaginally. It was simpler for Isabella, who was in the cephalic presentation at the time of her delivery. Isabella was oriented head-first in the delivery canal, as is typical for most infants. According to medical records, she gave birth naturally and without medical intervention.
In contrast, Grayson presented in the footling breach position. Her feet would be born first, not her head or pelvis. When the umbilical cord is pushed out of the birth canal first, this creates a significant risk for umbilical cord prolapse. Cord prolapse is a relatively uncommon condition, but it can be exceedingly dangerous. The umbilical cord can become compressed, shutting off the oxygen supply to the infant. In a number of instances, the only viable option is immediate delivery, typically by C-section. Even though Grayson had not yet experienced fetal distress, she was in a perilous position, both literally and figuratively.
Breech Extraction by Hand
Dr. Steven Troy and his birthing team decided to attempt a breech extraction, in which Grayson would be manually repositioned within the delivery canal. The “extraction of Baby Grayson” entailed grasping her body and pulling her through the cervix and birth canal, according to the family’s lawsuit. At the time, the parents report hearing a “popping sound.”
According to court documents, Grayson was delivered unresponsive and required resuscitation with vigorous stimulation and positive pressure ventilation. The child exhibited several signs of a spinal cord injury after being resuscitated. Her blood pressure was low, and her blood contained inadequate amounts of oxygen. Hypotonia, an abnormally low level of muscle tension, was observed in the infant’s cranium, neck, and upper limbs by the nurses.
A Spinal Injury Paralyzes the Child
Pediatric neurologists at the hospital expressed concern to Grayson’s parents that he had sustained a spinal cord injury. The child was transported to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) for additional treatment. The physicians at CHOP confirmed the diagnosis. Scanners of the brain revealed subdural hemorrhage consistent with birth trauma. Additional tests revealed bleeding within the child’s cervical vertebrae and a growing accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid.
The physicians determined that all of these symptoms were caused by a nerve root avulsion injury. The baby’s cervical spinal cord had been stripped of its nerves. And physicians wrote in medical reports that all of this damage was caused by “significant birth trauma.”
Grayson Charlton now receives occupational and physical rehabilitation a few times per week. According to Daily Local News, she rides horses in West Chester as part of the equine-assisted rehabilitation program at Quest Therapeutic Services. As a first-grader, she cannot independently sit or crawl.
Doctor Lacking Expertise To Manage Complicated Birth
In their February 2013 lawsuit, Grayson’s parents alleged birth-related medical malfeasance against Dr. Steven Troy, Delaware County Memorial Hospital, and Crozer-Keystone Health System. While the defendants assumed a duty to provide Kira Charlton and her children with “reasonable, proper, adequate, and appropriate care,” the complaint alleges that Dr. Troy was completely unqualified to manage such a complex delivery.
The parents write that “Dr. Troy did not have adequate training, experience, or qualifications to deliver twins vaginally with one twin in the footling breech position.” The family’s attorneys elaborated on their case at trial, claiming that Troy failed to safeguard Grayson’s head and neck as he pulled her through the birth canal.
The $40 million verdict is the highest in county history, according to the attorneys.
The jury concurred, awarding Grayson approximately $40,3 million for her long-term care and suffering. The attorneys for the plaintiffs believe it may be the highest jury award ever awarded in Delaware County. Crozer-Keystone Health System, which owns the facility where Grayson was born, issued a statement defending itself following the verdict.