A mother has lodged a $20 million medical negligence claim in the Supreme Court in Brisbane against an obstetrician and the Mater Mothers’ Private Hospital on behalf of her son for allegedly causing his cerebral palsy.
Petrea Aslett, 43, claims she shouldn’t have been prescribed penicillin when she presented to the Mater Mothers’ Private Hospital in Brisbane with irregular pelvic and abdominal pain in March 2012, which caused her to suffer a severe anaphylactic reaction and for her son Hudson, now six, to be born prematurely.
Court documents allege Ms Aslett was 30 weeks pregnant when she was admitted to the hospital after describing her symptoms to a midwife.
She claims while her and her baby’s vital signs were checked and monitored and her abdomen was examined, a number of other checks including a vaginal examination or a urine test weren’t conducted.
It’s alleged the midwife called Ms Aslett’s obstetrician, who gave orders for medications including Benzylpenicillin be administered, and that during or after that telephone conservation the obstetrician determined Ms Aslett was suffering from threatened pre-term labour.
Ms Aslett claims she was given Nifedipine to help with her symptoms and became pain free.
She said when her obstetrician arrived at the hospital and came to see her, she was asked to describe her symptoms and pain to which she replied she was pain-free and had been for 30 minutes.
The documents claim before and after speaking with her, Ms Aslett’s obstetrician did not perform an abdominal or vaginal examination, physical assessment or other investigation or direct other midwives to carry out any tests before she was intravenously administered Benzylpenicillin.
Ms Aslett then suffered severe anaphylactic shock with cardiovascular collapse and after attempts to stabilise her and her baby, she was taken to the operating theatre for an emergency caesarean section.
It’s alleged her son Hudson was born prematurely, weighing 1,790 grams, and suffered brain damage, birth asphyxia, and hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy leading to cerebral palsy.
Ms Aslett’s lawyer Vicki Holmes from Maurice Blackburn said they would be arguing she didn’t receive simple tests during her hospital visit to determine if she was experiencing any form of preterm labour.
“Penicillin was prescribed to her, contrary to clinical practice and the hospital policies and that prescription and administration of penicillin caused her to have an anaphylactic reaction, which meant her baby suffered a loss of oxygen and Hudson was required to be born suffering a brain injury which has led to cerebral palsy,” she said.
“Our evidence and our allegation is that a vaginal examination was required to determine whether or not she was actually in labour and that vaginal examination wasn’t performed.”
Two claims have been lodged in the Supreme Court — one on behalf of Hudson seeking $20 million in damages to cover high level care, support, therapy and equipment expenses for his lifetime and a second claiming $2 million for the psychological injuries, associated expenses and loss of income Ms Aslett has suffered.
Ms Holmes said Hudson has a near-normal life expectancy and will require a high level of care throughout his life.
“Petrea is an extremely dedicated, caring and loving mother to Hudson and provides him with as much care and assistance and support that she can for his injuries and will continue to do so for the future,” she said.
“That’s the aim of his litigation to try and provide for his needs and ensure that he has got the support that he needs for the future.”
The court documents state Ms Aslett was employed at the Mater Hospital as a Morbidity/Mortality Coordinator prior to the incident.
In a statement, Mater Health said it’s not able to make any comment regarding the action raised by Hudson Aslett’s legal team as the case is currently before the courts.
The obstetrician has been contacted for comment.
A private hospital obstetrician in the Greater Brisbane region, who didn’t want to be named, said pre-term labour can only be diagnosed after vaginal examination.
“If I had a similar patient I would start with vital signs including pulse, blood pressure, temperature, a full abdominal examination, fetal surveillance and then with verbal consent go for internal examination so it is part and parcel of diagnosing preterm labour,” she said.
“The symptoms described were irregular tightening, she didn’t have any ongoing, regular contractions, she didn’t have any vaginal bleeding or show any sign of the cervix opening up and having that bleeding or spotting or leaking of any fluid.
“She didn’t have that so those irregular contractions sometimes could be because of an infection that’s why a urine examination is also a first-line investigation.”