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The state of Iowa has agreed to a payment of nearly $4 million to settle a birth injuries case that left a young boy with severe retardation, according to newly released records associated with the litigation. The settlement, which totals about $3.75 million, is one of the largest issued by a state hospital in recent years.

The boy, now 5, suffers from cerebral palsy and developmental disorders, as well as other serious health conditions.

His mother, who was 20 at the time of his birth in 2007, went to the hospital to deliver him. Reports indicate that the woman was given Pitocin, a contraction-inducing drug, after physicians determined her contractions were not regular enough to attempt vaginal delivery.

The medical team reportedly continued to administer the drug even after excessive contractions had caused severe trauma to the baby’s head, according to the suit. The baby was finally delivered after 28 hours of labor, but the woman ultimately required a Caesarean section operation.

Attorneys for the family say that Pitocin is increasingly being misused in hospital settings, with physicians and other staff failing to recognize that the drug can cause excessive contractions. Those can be incredibly dangerous to the baby, largely because the baby’s brain is deprived of oxygen during intense, long-lasting contractions. Lawyers for the university claimed there was not enough scientific evidence to support the family’s claims, but the family’s attorneys successfully argued that the doctors had been negligent.

Half of the money from the settlement will come from the state’s general fund, according to reports, with the remainder coming from the University of Iowa physicians group. The state will pay $2 million up-front, according to reports.

The settlement allowed the hospital to avoid a trial date that had been set for April. The boy’s family attorney had planned to argue that his lifetime care would require more than $6 million, a sum nearly twice as much as the agreed-upon settlement.

It is not uncommon for physicians to prescribe medications to a woman during labor and delivery; either to aid in progressing or inducing labor or even to help woman cope with the level of pain. However, it is up to the medical personnel assigned to the woman to monitor the patient as well as the baby. Any medication can have unexpected side-effects. Medical staff is responsible to be vigilant of their patients to ensure such reactions do not occur.

Source: San Francisco Chronicle, “APNewsBreak: Iowa to pay $3.75M in boy’s injuries,” Ryan J. Foley, July 1, 2012