A State Supreme Court judge on Friday approved a $5.2 million malpractice settlement for Joseph McCabe against two Albany obstetricians and Albany Medical Center Hospital for the death of his wife.
Diane McCabe died Sept. 4, 2007, giving birth to her second child, Jenna. The child survived, but the mother, who was 32, died of massive internal bleeding following a Caesarean section.
Judge Roger McDonough’s order requires obstetricians Dr. Sean Lee to pay $2.3 million, Dr. Cheryl Burack to pay $1.9 million and Albany Medical Center Hospital to pay $1 million.
The judge’s order further requires Albany Medical Center to fund the “Diane McCabe Memorial Quality Lecture” for the next 20 years. The lecture will focus on topics to enhance patient safety. In addition, the hospital will be required to purchase a maternal and neonatal simulator and change procedures on perinatal machines.
A statement from Albany Medical Center stated: “The loss of a mother following childbirth is tragic, for family and friends as well as for the medical team involved in the delivery of care. Albany Medical Center will not comment further on the settlement of this case except to say that we will comply fully with the terms of the agreement.”
In a prepared statement, Joseph McCabe said the settlement provides benefits that will serve as a living memorial of Diane for their children and family. “We hope that it will improve the quality of medical care in this area and reduce the likelihood that another family will have to endure the suffering and loss that our family has undergone,” he said.
McCabe, a Schenectady police officer, said the agreement made possible the lecture program and other changes at Albany Medical Center, a guarantee he would not have secured if the lawsuit had continued to trial.
Joseph McCabe filed suit in 2007, stating that medical professionals did not follow a 2004 state health advisory that recommended procedures, as well as drills, to properly respond to hemorrhaging.
John K. Powers, attorney for the McCabe family, said Diane McCabe died after Dr. Lee and a medical resident who was assisting him either cut or tore Diane’s uterine arteries. Powers said McCabe suffered a severe obstetrical hemorrhage while in the operating room, losing approximately 60 percent of her total blood volume.
He said her death was “totally preventable” and that Lee was negligent for failing to diagnose her continued internal bleeding and for not repairing the tear until it was too late to prevent her death.
Surgical intensive care physicians Dr. Dennis J. Cirilla II and Dr. Dan Thompson, the attending physician on duty, both stated that Thompson repeatedly told Lee that McCabe was continuing to bleed internally and needed to be returned to the operating room immediately to find and repair the cause of the bleeding and that Lee refused to do so for more than six hours, Powers said.
The lawsuit also alleged that Lee’s partner, Burack, was negligent in failing to perform the Caesarean section earlier that morning, after Diane’s labor failed to progress normally and that such delay contributed to the condition that caused Lee to initially damage the uterine arteries.
Testimony of nurses at Albany Medical Center also established that McCabe’s actual vital signs were not being recorded after the Caesarean section and a physician testified that understaffing of the surgical intensive care unit was a chronic problem at the hospital, with one physician and one resident trying to treat Diane and 25 to 30 other acutely ill patients.