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Jury Awards $24M to 7-Year-Old Boy

Mar 26, 2002 | AP

A jury has awarded $24 million to a mentally retarded 7-year-old boy whose mother says his brain damage was caused by doctors at the hospital where he was born.

Sheila Dunkle's lawsuit on her son Austin's behalf said emergency room doctors at Sacred Heart Hospital did not properly resuscitate the boy when he was born prematurely Sept. 1, 1994, causing irreversible damage to his brain.

The Dunkles also claimed the hospital wasn't adequately staffed to handle deliveries of premature babies after 5 p.m.

The hospital's experts said the boy's injuries stemmed from the fact that he was born prematurely at 27 weeks, or occurred at St. Christopher's Hospital in Philadelphia, where the infant was transferred.

Sacred Heart will appeal Monday's decision. The facility maintains that the care provided to Austin "was appropriate, timely and in keeping with the accepted standards of care at the time," spokesman Jim McGuire said in a statement.

Austin now receives 24-hour care in a residential facility for retarded children. Sheila Dunkle said the award will help the family pay for Austin's care and buy special equipment the child needs for home visits and a van to transport him.

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