The Chickasaw Nation Medical Center in Ada, Oklahoma. Photo: Brad Holt

Indian Health Service ordered to pay $15 million for baby's brain damage

The Indian Health Service has been ordered to pay more than $15 million to the parents of a baby boy who suffered irreversible brain damage at a Chickasaw Nation facility in Oklahoma.

Judge Joe Heaton issued the stunning judgement on Monday. He said the evidence showed that staff at the Chickasaw Nation Medical Center committed negligence during the labor and birth of Alexis and Taylor Stokes’s newborn son in May 2016.

Staff at the tribally-managed facility "breached the standard of care," Heaton wrote in the 24-page decision. A nurse failed to comply with doctor's orders when she kept on increasing the dosage of drugs to Alexis Taylor during labor.

A team of physicians also contributed to the negligence, Heaton determined. The doctors delayed resuscitation attempts for too long, causing traumatic injuries to Baby Stokes.

"The court concludes Baby Stokes suffered a hypoxic ischemic injury resulting from events which occurred late in labor and from the delayed resuscitation," Heaton wrote. Hypoxic-ischemic is a type of injury that occurs when an infant's brain doesn't receive enough oxygen and blood.

As a result, Baby Stokes remains "severely disabled," the decision read. "He is not expected to crawl or walk," Heaton wrote.

"He cannot speak. While he has repeated sounds, the verbalizations are not consistent," the judge continued. "Baby Stokes is tube fed. He has made responses, possibly to changes in light, but has been diagnosed as cortically blind."

Baby Stokes has since been diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Although the condition is not always immediately life threatening, Heaton concluded that the boy might only live to age 22, due to the extent and seriousness of his injuries.

The $15 million judgement -- which was much lower than Alexis and Taylor Stokes sought as the litigation moved forward -- reflected the shorter life span. Of the award, the judge directed $12.1 million to be deposited into a trust that is being used to provide for the care of Baby Stokes.

The remaining $3 million was awarded to the boy and his parents for the losses they suffered and the costs they incurred so far.

Indianz.Com has asked the IHS for comment about the decision.

The Chickasaw Nation Medical Center is located in Ada, the headquarters of the Chickasaw Nation.

Court Documents: Stokes v. Indian Health Service

Answer to Complaint



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