A 34-year-old Northwest Washington woman who suffered massive bleeding and loss of her pituitary gland after childbirth at George Washington University Hospital four years ago was awarded $5 million yesterday by a D.C. Superior Court jury in one of the largest medical malpractice verdicts handed down here.
Renee Yates, a senior financial analyst at the U.S. Treasury, said in her lawsuit that doctors at the hospital negligently performed the delivery and failed to advise her properly about bleeding she suffered several days after her only child was born.
Yates also said that a second party, the Washington Hospital Center, where she was taken when she began hemorrhaging 13 days after delivery, allowed her to remain in shock for five hours, failed to give her blood and kept her in the emergency room three hours after deciding to transfer her to George Washington for treatment.
Yates said the loss of her pituitary gland removed her "womanhood," left her dependent on substitute drugs for life and made her unable to bear children.
The jury awarded her husband, Earl, a private consultant on Third World development, an additional $1 million for loss of consortium with his wife.
"I think this was about the clearest case of malpractice I've ever seen," said the couple's attorney, Barry Nace. "They the hospitals messed it up every step of the way."
Nace called the award "probably fair. We had an extremely attentive jury."
Both hospitals denied any wrongdoing and their attorneys said they will ask for the verdict to be set aside or for a new trial.
"I don't think it is anywhere close to being realistic," said Walter J. Murphy, attorney for the Washington Hospital Center. "This lady works every day. She has no loss of income. She holds a very nice job in the government and she's an instant millionaire."
Yates was admitted to George Washington on March 21, 1981, and gave birth the next day to a healthy boy. She suffered some bleeding at the hospital but was discharged with instructions to call the hospital if she had any problems, according to the suit.
The bleeding continued while Yates was at home convalescing, and she contended that she called the hospital twice and was first told not to worry and then told to "put her feet up and place ice on her abdomen," the suit said.
On April 4, Yates said she awoke, discovered she was bleeding heavily and passed out. A rescue team took her to the Washington Hospital Center, where she remained for 10 hours in the emergency room,Nace said. He said attendants there gave her two units of intravenous fluid but no blood, even though she had gone into shock because of massive bleeding.
Late that afternoon, officials at the Hospital Center decided to transfer Yates to George Washington but did not do so until three hours later, Nace said.
At George Washington, Nace said, physicians found that Yates had lost half her blood and decided to operate and give her transfusions.
During the operation, he said, physicians discovered the cause of the bleeding: part of the placenta had remained in her uterus.
Nace told the jury that Yates' pituitary gland, which regulates hormone levels in the body, was destroyed because of the massive loss of blood.