Currently in the United States, more than 200,000 women are incarcerated because of drug offenses and property crimes. Many of these women are pregnant. As typical protocol, delivery in a prison is traumatic as inmates can be handcuffed and/or shackled during their labor and delivery. Nicole Guerrero’s experience makes a typical prison delivery routine—her delivery was downright horrific.
Guerrero was arrested for drug possession in June 2012. Nine days later, she discovered that she was 34 weeks pregnant. After being examined by an OB/GYN, her baby was deemed healthy; Guerrero was given iron pill and a prescription for an infection. The next week would bring on 12 unbearable hours for the woman and would result in lawsuits against Wichita County, the sheriff, a private prison healthcare firm and a nurse with an expired license.
While it was not acknowledged by medical staff, Guerrero began her labor around 6:30 p.m. on June 11, 2012. She began to complain of lower back pain, cramps and a vaginal discharge (including blood). After being taken to the nurse’s station, she was given a prescribed medication and the baby’s heartbeat was checked. Guerrero was sent back to her cell and for the next nine hours, she suffered from severe lower back pain and contractions. Her cries of agony (and requesting help with a medical alert button at 11 p.m.) were ignored for a further four-and-a-half hours.
At 3:30 a.m., Guerrero was once again taken to the nurse’s station and evaluated by Nurse LaDonna Anderson. She was once again, told she was not in labor. She was then placed in “the cage” a solitary cell with nothing except a mat and told to take deep breaths. According to Guerrero’s claims, the officers continued to ignore her labor and even laughed at her distress.
Her water broke around 5 a.m….
Nurse Anderson walked by on her way to check on other inmates; however, she walked on—telling Guerrero that she would be back. Guerrero discovered that her baby’s head was crowning, pushed, and delivered her daughter on the mat. A detention officer who walked up held the baby (who was described as purple with the umbilical cord tied around her neck). Nurse Anderson returned and removed the umbilical cord. She then patted the baby (who was unresponsive) while waiting on an ambulance for the next 20 minutes.
At no time did Nurse Anderson attempt to assist the infant, nor did she actually check whether she was breathing or had a heartbeat. The EMTs cut the umbilical cord and tried to revive the baby and took her to the hospital where she was pronounced dead at 6:30 a.m. Guerrero remained in the cell until she delivered the placenta—she was then transported to the hospital.
Guerrero is suing the county along with the sheriff for unconstitutional confinement. In addition, she is filing a civil action against Correctional Healthcare Management, as well as the nurse, LaDonna Anderson (citing breach of duty of care and medical malpractice). Guerrero is also claims severe and likely permanent physical and psychological damage. She is still in jail serving out her sentences for drug charges and theft. She is due for release in July….
I hope that events such as those above are rare. Other kinds of birth traumas, however, happen frequently. If you feel that your child was injured because of a doctor’s error, please schedule a free consultation with Tennessee birth injury and medical malpractice attorneys at Gilreath & Associates today. We can help you build your case. In addition, you can also browse our blog and knowledge center to find other information.