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$2.1 Million Awarded in Birth Of Brain-Damaged Boy

October 10, 1986

TACOMA, Wash. (AP) _ A mishandled birth at Madigan Army Medical Center has led to a $1.9 million damage award to a boy afflicted with cerebral palsy and $100,000 to each of his parents.

Patrick Gabbard, now 8, was left with brain damage because of malpractice at the hospital near Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base, Judge Jack E. Tanner ruled recently after a one-week trial in U.S. District Court.

He awarded damages to the boy and his parents, Debra Gabbard, a day-care operator, and John Gabbard, a computer programmer and former Army sergeant.

Patrick looks normal but walks with a severe limp and has learning disabilities, his mother said. The boy attends regular third-grade class for part of the day and a class for handicapped children the remainder, she added.

Hospital officials told the Gabbards their son was deprived of oxygen during birth because the umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck.

Tanner, however, said evidence showed the mother’s medical chart, which noted her pregnancy had been diagnosed as a high-risk case, was unavailable when she was admitted to the Madigan labor room.

A nurse later gave Debra Gabbard a drug to induce contractions, but as the fetus was becoming exhausted from the contractions the mother twice was given an anesthetic that delayed delivery, the judge said in his Oct. 2 ruling.

Electronic fetal monitorings showed the fetus was in significant distress for an hour and a half during the labor, yet hospital personnel did nothing to alleviate the problem, the decision added.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Pickrell said Justice Department officials in Washington, D.C., would decide whether to appeal the decision.

More than $23 million in malpractice claims against Madigan have been awarded since 1979. Many of those cases are under appeal, but millions of dollars in additional claims are pending.

Additional staff and other improvements were made at the hospital recently after a civilian review board and the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Hospitals said more personnel were needed.

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