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Diagnosis During Pregnancy Could Have Prepared Parents and Doctors for Heart Defect

By: Cohen, Placitella & Roth @ Jun 19, 2017

On April 21, 2017, Jimmy Kimmel’s wife, Molly McNearney, gave birth to their son, Billy. While everything originally seemed fine, within hours of Billy’s birth, something was clearly wrong, and the parents were informed that their infant needed to undergo emergency heart surgery.

Emergency Heart Surgery Required to Save Baby Billy’s Life

Within a few hours of being born, nurses noticed that the baby’s skin was slightly discolored, and that he had developed a heart murmur. The doctors diagnosed the condition as tetralogy of Fallot, which is a type of heart defect that prevents the lungs from being able to take in enough oxygen.

Thankfully, the surgery was a success, and Billy is expected to recover fine, although he will need subsequent surgeries in his life, as reported by an article in Health.com.

Heart Defect Could Have Been Diagnosed Earlier

What’s most shocking about the emergency surgery, perhaps, is that according to a report in Philly.com, the child’s heart defect could have been diagnosed during the pregnancy via an ultrasound. The specific reason why it wasn’t is unknown, but Howard Weber, who is the director of interventional pediatric cardiology at Penn State Children’s Hospital, stated that unless the condition is being looked for, it is often missed.

Had the condition been diagnosed earlier, more preparations could have been made. This includes ensuring that surgeons and nurses are ready for the surgery, and that parents also know what to expect, mitigating rush and urgency and alleviating panic. Another doctor, Jack Rychik, director of the fetal heart program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told Philly.com reporters that this is “exactly the sort of thing that should be identified before birth.”

While Billy and his parents were lucky – the surgery was a success – the same may not have been true in a similar situation of a delayed diagnosis.

Who Is Liable for Birth Injuries and Serious Health Complications at Birth?

In a situation where a child born with tetralogy of Fallot did not receive the emergency care that they did (luckily, Billy’s nurse noticed his change in skin color and abnormal heart rhythms), or did undergo emergency surgery, but the surgery was unsuccessful, a question of liability for the birth injury and delayed diagnosis could be raised. When a doctor fails to diagnose a medical condition like this, or otherwise causes harm to a child during the birth process, can they be held liable?

On April 21, 2017, Jimmy Kimmel’s wife, Molly McNearney, gave birth to their son, Billy. While everything originally seemed fine, within hours of Billy’s birth, something was clearly wrong, and the parents were informed that their infant needed to undergo emergency heart surgery.

Emergency Heart Surgery Required to Save Baby Billy’s Life

Within a few hours of being born, nurses noticed that the baby’s skin was slightly discolored, and that he had developed a heart murmur. The doctors diagnosed the condition as tetralogy of Fallot, which is a type of heart defect that prevents the lungs from being able to take in enough oxygen.

Thankfully, the surgery was a success, and Billy is expected to recover fine, although he will need subsequent surgeries in his life, as reported by an article in Health.com.

Heart Defect Could Have Been Diagnosed Earlier

What’s most shocking about the emergency surgery, perhaps, is that according to a report in Philly.com, the child’s heart defect could have been diagnosed during the pregnancy via an ultrasound. The specific reason why it wasn’t is unknown, but Howard Weber, who is the director of interventional pediatric cardiology at Penn State Children’s Hospital, stated that unless the condition is being looked for, it is often missed.

Had the condition been diagnosed earlier, more preparations could have been made. This includes ensuring that surgeons and nurses are ready for the surgery, and that parents also know what to expect, mitigating rush and urgency and alleviating panic. Another doctor, Jack Rychik, director of the fetal heart program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, told Philly.com reporters that this is “exactly the sort of thing that should be identified before birth.”

While Billy and his parents were lucky – the surgery was a success – the same may not have been true in a similar situation of a delayed diagnosis.

Who Is Liable for Birth Injuries and Serious Health Complications at Birth?

In a situation where a child born with tetralogy of Fallot did not receive the emergency care that they did (luckily, Billy’s nurse noticed his change in skin color and abnormal heart rhythms), or did undergo emergency surgery, but the surgery was unsuccessful, a question of liability for the birth injury and delayed diagnosis could be raised. When a doctor fails to diagnose a medical condition like this, or otherwise causes harm to a child during the birth process, can they be held liable?


The answer is that it depends. If the doctor breached the medical standard of care – the standard of care that a similar physician in a similar circumstance would execute – then yes, they may be held liable.

Our Attorney Work for Your Family

If you are the parent of a child who has suffered a birth injury due to a delayed diagnosis or other medical error, our team is here for you. Contact our Philadelphia birth injury lawyers today for your free consultation.
The answer is that it depends. If the doctor breached the medical standard of care – the standard of care that a similar physician in a similar circumstance would execute – then yes, they may be held liable.

Our Attorney Work for Your Family

If you are the parent of a child who has suffered a birth injury due to a delayed diagnosis or other medical error, our team is here for you. Contact our Philadelphia birth injury lawyers today for your free consultation.

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