Parents of infant who went blind sue hospital and doctor

Jon Campisi Jul. 18, 2011, 4:29pm

The parents of an infant who became blind after birth are suing the medical professionals who cared for the prematurely born baby.

Florida attorney Richard Michael Shapiro filed the medical malpractice claim July 15 at the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas on behalf of Rocio Gamarra and Edwin Chonta, the parents of Milagros Chonta, who was born on June 23, 2005 after about six months in the womb.

The defendants named in the lawsuit are Tenet Healthsystem St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children, SCHC Pediatrica Associates, LLC and Gary Diamond, an eye doctor practicing out of Bala Cynwyd, Pa.

It is commonly known in the medical community, the lawsuit states, that children born premature are at risk of developing Retinopathy of Prematurity, or ROP. Therefore, after the child’s birth, Diamond was assigned by hospital staff to examine Milagros Chonta, screening her for the disease.

The parents were not given a choice of ophthalmologist, the lawsuit states, and were required to go with Diamond as the medical professional in charge of her care.

“Rocio Gamarra and Edwin Chonta had no information about ROP or Diamond’s education, training, experience and competence and reasonably relied upon Tenet St. Christopher’s to provide physicians, nurses, ancillary staff and a specialists with the necessary skill and expertise to screen and treat their daughter for ROP,” the lawsuit states.

According to the complaint, the infant child was transferred to St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children on June 29, 2005 for comprehensive care in the neonatal intensive care unit.

Diamond, the suit states, examined the infant for ROP beginning on July 28, 2005, and continued to monitor her beyond the time she was diagnosed with “hopelessly detached retinas and total, permanent blindness on December 7, 2005.”

The lawsuit claims that Diamond’s subsequent examinations of the infant were “improperly performed, erroneous, inaccurate, and/or untimely,” and his written notes “understated the progression of her disease.”

The defendants, the suit claims, should have known that the untimely diagnosis and treatment of ROP by a skilled ophthalmologist is required to preserve eyesight in premature infants.

On Dec. 7, 2005, Milagros Chonta was examined by a pediatric retinal specialist and diagnosed with untreatable detachment of the retinas in both eyes, meaning she will remain blind for the rest of her life, the lawsuit states.

The parents of the child “reasonably believed that Milagros Chonta became blind as a result of her prematurity,” the suit states, and claim that nobody informed them that any treatment was available to prevent blindness, and no one informed them that earlier treatment would have prevented their baby’s blindness.”

The lawsuit accuses St. Christopher’s of negligently hiring Diamond, and failing to oversee individuals “who practice medicine within its walls.”

As a result of her diagnosis, the infant sustained bilateral retinal detachment, permanent blindness in both eyes, loss of the opportunity to receive treatment for her eye condition, deterioration of her physical appearance, physical pain, suffering and mental distress, the lawsuit claims, all of which will undoubtedly prevent her from enjoying a full and normal life.

The plaintiffs demand judgment against the defendants, jointly and severally, in an amount in excess of the jurisdictional amount, or $50,000, plus interest and court costs.

A jury trial has been demanded.

The case number is 110701475.

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