Saving Fetus’ Life at 23 Weeks Does Not Preclude Malpractice Finding Due to Later Delayed Delivery

A health care provider treating a patient is under a legal duty to do so within the standard of care throughout the period of treatment. Even when some early aspects of the treatment rendered to the patient were successful, even heroic or life-saving, the standard of care must be met for all later aspects of the treatment.


The life of a fetus was saved when the defendant health care providers extended the mother’s pregnancy from 23 weeks to 26 weeks and halted a premature delivery. Subsequently at 26 weeks, a potentially life-threatening umbilical cord prolapse presented itself requiring immediate delivery of the fetus. However, the delivery was not performed immediately but rather was delayed by at least 40 minutes, resulting in permanent injury to the plaintiff.


The appeals court found the issue of whether the impairments the infant suffered were caused in fact by the negligent delay in delivering him, or by his prematurity and low birth weight, was for the jury.


The appellate court upheld the jury’s finding that the standard of care was not met when the delivery was delayed, even though the plaintiff would have had no life to save if excellent care had not been given prior to the date of delivery.

University of Maryland Medical System Corp. v. Gholston, 2012 WL 414383 (Md.App. Feb 10, 2012) (not designated for publication).