October 23, 2006
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A judge ruled that the federal government must pay $16.5 million to the family of a newborn boy whose brain was damaged when he was accidentally given carbon dioxide instead of oxygen in a medical malpractice case.
The baby, Izzy Peterson was born healthy in Hawaii’s Tripler Army Medical Center on Jan. 14, 2005, but now has severe brain damage. He requires 24-hour care, must breathe through a tube in his neck, and eats through a tube in his stomach. He is not expected to reach the age of 30.
“It’s an unbelievable tragedy,” said the family’s attorney, Rick Fried. “His brain has been wiped out by the carbon dioxide.”
The court was provided with pictures of the carbon dioxide tank that the physician confused with oxygen. The pictures showed that the carbon dioxide tank had a different type of regulator, and the bottle was labeled much differently from an oxygen tank.
Fried said it happened as a result of gross negligence. “They never looked, “ said Fried. There were no oxygen tanks in the room the carbon dioxide was administered.
Major general Carla Hawley-Bowland said Tripler “accepts responsibility for this tragic accident and respects the [judge’s] decision.”
The couple filed a malpractice suit, but the government admitted fault, so the focus of the trial was the amount of compensation to be awarded.
The government had originally offered to settle the case for $7 million, according to Fried.
The judge decided that the family should be awarded 12.4 million in future medical treatment expenses, and another $1.5 million for the loss of future income and benefits for a total of $16.5 million.
Fried felt the verdict was fair and said that the family was relieved the legal battle was over.
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