Standard of Care

When a childbirth went terribly wrong, the blame game began. Dodging responsibility was everybody's first order of business.

"There is no meaningful peer review," Benson says. "We're not -- at this point, in my judgment -- capable of self-judging, period. The bias, in my judgment, is to kind of cover up or bury booboos. Interestingly enough, when it doesn't bury booboos or cover up, it doesn't treat the doctors fairly.

"The system is random and capricious."

Emeka O. Ekwulugo
Emeka O. Ekwulugo
When Dr. Darrell Ballinger took a look at Isabel Hernandez, he knew her case was more than Touchette's doctors could handle.
Jennifer Silverberg
When Dr. Darrell Ballinger took a look at Isabel Hernandez, he knew her case was more than Touchette's doctors could handle.

Ekwulugo won't be delivering babies anytime soon.

He is working in the family-practice division of Hamot Medical Center in Erie, Pennsylvania, as a second-year resident, meaning he can't provide medical care without supervision. According to the hospital's Web site, second-year residents earn $41,455, about a quarter of what Ekwulugo was earning at Touchette. In an interview, the doctor says he no longer wants to be an obstetrician.

"I want to be a general practitioner," he says.

Future patients may have a tough time learning about Ekwulugo's disciplinary troubles. State-licensing databases accessible to the public in Ohio and Illinois show that Ekwulugo's medical licenses in those states have expired, with no record of disciplinary action.

The nurse anesthetist who assisted Ekwulugo during the cesarean section was fired shortly after Isabel left Touchette. Citing advice he's gotten from attorneys, the nurse won't discuss the reasons. His state nursing license remains in good standing, with no record of any discipline taken by the state of Illinois.

There's no indication that any anesthesiologist was disciplined as a result of Isabel's case. "Nobody complained to me about the anesthesia department, in this or any other case," Ramon says in a deposition. As with the nursing anesthetist, Illinois licensing records show that the state has never disciplined the anesthesiologist who couldn't be reached.

Meanwhile, Teresa and Mario Hernandez are raising Miguel, who will be four years old in February. They say they haven't seen their grandson's father in at least two years and don't know where he lives.

In a deposition taken last year, Teresa Hernandez says that Miguel looks at pictures of his mother every day.

She says she tells her grandson that his mother is in heaven.

When she does that, he hugs his grandmother and calls her Mom.

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