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Parents get $7m in death of infant

Jury deems nurse, doctor negligent with ill preemie

By Chelsea Conaboy
Globe Staff / September 1, 2011

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A Suffolk County Superior Court jury awarded a South Hamilton couple a judgment of $7 million yesterday in the 2004 death of their newborn daughter at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, according to their attorney.

Jurors found Dr. Janet Lloyd and nurse practitioner Michele Ambrosino negligent in the care of Katherine Bellerose, who was born about two months early at the hospital on June 13, 2004, and developed a condition that caused her intestinal tissue to die.

The baby’s parents, Danielle and John, alleged in their lawsuit that those caring for her in the neonatal intensive care unit failed to recognize that their daughter’s health was deteriorating and then took too long to call surgeons after her bowels had become perforated.

A lawyer representing the defendants said they provided appropriate care that met medical standards.

Premature infants are at higher risk for developing the condition, called necrotizing enterocolitis. William Thompson, the family’s attorney, said the intensive care unit staff should have been watching for it in Katherine, who was a twin.

“They really had to be paying close and careful attention,’’ he said in an interview.

Instead, Thompson said, Katherine Bellerose’s parents arrived at the hospital on June 20 to visit their daughters and found Katherine looking discolored and unresponsive, with the hospital monitors showing problems with her heart rate and oxygen levels. Thompson said hospital staff took more than an hour to help the family and more than four hours to call surgeons.

Surgery was unsuccessful and Katherine died in the early morning of June 21.

“By all accounts [Katherine] should have progressed on just like her sister and should have gone on to live a normal life,’’ Thompson said. “She lived eight days.’’

Hospital spokeswoman Morag MacLachlan declined to comment on the case because she had not seen the court’s decision.

Attorneys John Cassidy and Nancy Watson represented the defendants in the case, including four doctors and nurses who were not found at fault in the case.

Cassidy said Katherine’s condition arose and progressed quickly. He said his clients did what they could to determine what was wrong and to treat her.

“They recognize the pain to a family for losing a child and their heart goes out to the family,’’ he said. “But they really do believe that they followed the standards of care in treating Katherine.’’

Ambrosino is now working at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Lloyd, who had been filling in at Beth Israel Deaconess during the night the baby became ill, has left her post as director of the neonatal intensive care unit at South Shore Hospital, though she remains on staff at the hospital.

Thompson said the jurors awarded a judgment of $3.5 million to each of Bellerose’s parents and $50,000 for suffering she experienced before death.

Danielle Bellerose said by phone last night that the legal process was long and difficult.

She said Katherine’s twin sister, 7-year-old Alexis, knows about her sister’s death.

“We’re going to tell her today that we have been fighting for Katherine for seven years, and that we won,’’ she said.

Chelsea Conaboy can be reached at cconaboy@boston.com.

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