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U.S. Air Force Pays Record Amount for Baby Injured in Government Hospital

WASHINGTON, May 9 /PRNewswire/ -- The U.S. Air Force has paid a family $5 million for severe brain damage suffered by a baby during childbirth at a military hospital. The amount is a record sum for government settlement payments to children who suffered brain damage because of the negligence of government employees, according to what Air Force attorneys told the family's attorneys.

Aubrey Duckworth was born on September 4, 2004 at the U.S. Naval Hospital, Okinawa, Japan. Her mother's uterus ruptured during the birthing process, depriving the baby of oxygen for a prolonged time. Aubrey suffers from spastic cerebral palsy and blindness. She is fed through a surgical tube implanted in her stomach.

Most of the settlement money will go into a trust to pay Aubrey's medical and nursing bills, which are expected to be high because she needs round-the-clock nursing attention.

Aubrey's parents, Lindsey and William Duckworth, brought a claim under the Military Claims Act alleging that the nurse midwife, Laura A. Bennett, who attended Lindsey's labor and delivery was grossly negligent and guilty of malpractice for trying to manage a complex and high-risk delivery by herself without calling in an obstetrician. Mrs. Duckworth had previously had a cesarean section for her first baby, and Aubrey's birth was set up as a "VBAC" -- vaginal birth after cesarean. According to independent obstetrician experts who reviewed the childbirth records, Nurse Bennett, in response to the baby's failure to descend in the birth canal, repeatedly increased the dosage of a drug to stimulate uterine contractions -- Pitocin or oxytocin -- despite warning signs that the uterus was overly stimulated. The uterus eventually ruptured, cutting off oxygen to the fetus through the placenta. Nurse Bennett called an obstetrician to the scene only after the uterus ruptured. Aubrey then was delivered by an emergency cesarean section, but it was too late to prevent her brain injury.

The Duckworths now live in Benton, Louisiana. William Duckworth manages a golf course and Lindsey Duckworth teaches in an elementary school.

The parents' attorney, Patrick Malone of Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C., Washington, D.C., filed an administrative claim with the Navy in 2005. It took the Navy and Air Force two and one-half years to decide the claim. The Air Force was involved because under federal regulations, it had "single service authority" over injury claims at all U.S. government facilities in Japan.

"This money in no way makes up for the terrible and unnecessary tragedy that happened to the Duckworths," Malone said. "We hope that this will help encourage military hospitals to be more vigilant in how they manage childbirth and especially VBAC's, which have a known risk for catastrophic injury to the baby when not monitored properly."

Contact for further information: Patrick Malone, 202-742-1500,

SOURCE Patrick Malone & Associates, P.C.
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