Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside. Image via tricitymed.org
A woman who was given an emergency cesarean section — allegedly without anesthesia — at an Oceanside hospital lost a medical negligence and battery lawsuit earlier this month against the federal government.
Delfina Mota, who was 25 years old at the time, was admitted to Tri-City Medical Center in 2017 while just over 41 weeks pregnant, with the intent of inducing labor.
When the fetal heart rate could not be read, Dr. Sandra Lopez, an obstetrician from the federally funded Vista Community Clinic, called for the C-section. While Mota had initially been given a local and epidural anesthetic, she alleged in her lawsuit that the effects had almost entirely worn off by the time Lopez ordered the C-section and that the Pitocin administered might have caused the baby’s distress.
The government contends Lopez performed “pinch tests” to determine whether Mota had any sensation and found she did not. Mota denied any such tests occurred.
By the time the C-section was ordered, attempts to summon the anesthesiologist were unsuccessful and Lopez decided to proceed with the surgery. The government wrote in its brief that the doctor “was confronted with an obstetrical emergency in which minutes and even seconds make the difference between delivering a normal, healthy baby and a child with lifelong catastrophic disabilities.”
In Mota’s trial brief, her attorney contends Lopez never obtained Mota’s consent regarding the decision and that Mota “adamantly voiced her strong opposition” to it without anesthesia, while the government alleged Mota was advised of the situation and agreed to it.
Mota alleged that once the surgery began, she screamed in pain and pleaded with Lopez to stop. The anesthesiologist arrived mid-surgery and administered an anesthetic, which Mota’s attorney alleged happened “too late to prevent the incredible pain and suffering.”
Mota’s baby, a daughter named Cali, was born healthy.
U.S. District Judge Anthony Battaglia, who presided over a bench trial regarding the lawsuit, ruled in the government’s favor. In his written ruling, the judge said that while Mota did not receive general anesthesia, she had received other forms of anesthesia prior to the operation.
Though the judge conceded she “suffered,” he wrote that “in a stressful circumstance, she consented to an emergency procedure without general anesthesia with her expected child in peril.”
He also wrote that Mota’s screams and pleas — which were reportedly heard by her fiancée and sister outside the operating room — were not confirmed by the other nurses and no one in the operating room witnessed Mota refusing to undergo the procedure.
“The court accepts that plaintiff, her fiancée, and her sister believe what they are saying, but the court believes their recollection of events are the product of the stress of the moment and the lack of perception of the events as they unfolded,” Battaglia wrote.
City News Service contributed to this article.