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MAHONING COUNTY TRIAL Parents: Early delivery harmed son



Published: Fri, February 14, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



The question is whether the boy sustained brain damage before or after his birth.

By BOB JACKSON

VINDICATOR COURTHOUSE REPORTER

YOUNGSTOWN -- David Tarantine must use a wheelchair. He was born 10 weeks premature in June 1993.

His parents, Kathleen and John Tarantine, are suing Dr. Oscar Khawli, saying it's his fault that their son has cerebral palsy because the boy, now 9, was born too soon.

Atty. David C. Comstock says Dr. Khawli acted properly and isn't at fault. He said David's brain damage probably happened before the boy was born, not afterward.

A jury in Mahoning County Common Pleas Court will decide which side is right.

During opening statements Tuesday in the courtroom of Judge Robert Lisotto, the Tarantines' attorney, Martin F. White, said Dr. Khawli rushed to judgment and action when he delivered David by an emergency surgical procedure.

The doctor deemed the surgery necessary because of a sharp and sudden drop in the mother's blood pressure and decrease in the fetal heart rate while at St. Elizabeth Health Center.

Mother in accident

Mrs. Tarantine was 28 weeks pregnant when she was involved in an automobile accident on Interstate 680 on June 6, 1993, on her way to St. Elizabeth's for routine blood work. She was not seriously injured, but decided to go to the hospital for a checkup to make sure there'd been no harm to the fetus.

White said monitoring equipment at the hospital initially showed that both the mother and fetus were doing well, with normal blood pressures and heart rates. However, within minutes, Mrs. Tarantine began feeling nauseated and dizzy. Her blood pressure plummeted and the fetus's heart rate dropped sharply.

Comstock said Dr. Khawli determined she had most likely suffered a ruptured uterus, which had been a concern throughout her pregnancy. A small, fibrous tumor had been removed from Mrs. Tarantine's uterus a year earlier, and Dr. Khawli feared the scar would be vulnerable to rupture during the pregnancy.

Symptoms improved

White said Dr. Khawli decided that an emergency surgical delivery of the fetus was necessary and began preparing for it. When Mrs. Tarantine, who had been on her back, was moved to prepare for surgery, her symptoms and the fetal symptoms improved dramatically.

He said that is indicative of supine hypotensive syndrome, in which the weight of the uterus presses down on a woman's blood vessels when she is lying on her back, causing symptoms like the ones Mrs. Tarantine experienced.

White said Dr. Khawli never explored that option, instead going forward with surgery and delivering the baby 10 weeks before his planned birth.

White said the cerebral palsy was most likely caused by the baby's inability to get enough blood and oxygen to his brain after his birth because his organs were not fully developed.

Comstock said there was no reason for Dr. Khawli to consider supine hypotensive syndrome because nurses had been moving Mrs. Tarantine from her back onto her sides to safeguard against it.

bjackson@vindy.com




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