Three families are suing a Houston doctor and the East Houston Regional Medical Center over allegations that medical practitioners mishandled each of their babies' deliveries to the point that one infant died, and another two were left with severe, lifelong injuries.
On Thursday, Tatyana Phillips, Jessica Bonura and Stephanie Garcia each filed separate lawsuits against Dr. June Williams Colman – who the lawsuits allege was the physician in charge of the birth of each of the women's children – and the medical center, where the women gave birth. (In the lawsuit, the EHRMC is also named as the Bayshore Medical Center.) In each of the cases, the lawsuits say, Colman and staff at the medical center did not notice clear signs that the infants were in distress and instead let the women push for far longer than was medically safe, without offering them the option of cesareans.
“They were healthy pregnancies. There was no reason for this to happen,” said lawyer Mo Aziz, a partner at Abraham, Watkins, Nicols, Sorrels, Agosto & Friend, which is representing the women.
Bonura, who gave birth in 2012, said her son suffered a severe brain injury. Garcia's son, who was born in 2014, is in a permanent, “catastrophic state of injury,” Aziz said at a news conference about the lawsuits.
“It's a very indescribable feeling. One minute you're getting to meet your firstborn child and the next minute you're watching your newborn baby trying to breathe and going in and out of seizures,” Garcia said at the press conference. She began to cry as she read from a prepared statement that described her son's many injuries, from having impaired vision to needing to maintain his temperature as his brain's internal temperature was damaged.
Yet Phillips's story may be the most harrowing. In 2015, Phillips was admitted to the EHRMC to induce labor. According to Aziz, over the course of a day, nurses failed to notice that the baby was in distress. Colman also allowed Phillips to push for more than two hours before attempting to use a vacuum extractor to deliver the baby – three times. That final effort, “according to our experts, should never have been made,” Aziz said.
He added, “As a result of the severe brain injuries and the injuries the child suffered during the prolonged painful labor, he died shortly thereafter.”
“I realize that I used to be a very happy, joyful and cheerful person. Now I'm depressed and still very hurt, even when I'm in church,” said Phillips, who also cried as she read from her statement. “It seems like the world is moving fast while I've been walking in slow motion. I decided to stay at home because everywhere I go, I see kids and babies. But instead of seeing their faces, I see my son's face and start crying in front of everybody.”
Aziz said blame for the substandard care is shared between the medical staff who treated the women, adding that Colman and the nurses improperly used the drug Oxytocin, which can be used to induce labor, in all three of the cases. “Multiple errors were made. Both by the hospital and Dr. Colman.”
This is not the first time that Colman has been accused of failing to meet standards of medical care during baby deliveries, as we've previously written. In 2014, the Texas Medical Board disciplined Colman after three patients had experiences like Phillips's – specifically, in its ruling, the board said Colman didn't offer patients cesarean sections as well as “inappropriately attempted to perform a vacuum delivery.” However, Colman was not suspended. Instead, the board ordered her to pay a $3,000 fine and complete at least 20 hours of continuing medical education on high-risk obstetrics.
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When asked if other patients may have also had experiences similar to Garcia's, Bonura's and Phillips's, personal injury lawyer Craig McMillan – who is also part of the families' legal team – said, “I know that after Tatyana Phillips's situation became public, I received a lot of phone calls in relation to June Colman and the East Houston Regional Medical Center.”
The Houston Press sent questions to Bayshore Medical Center and East Houston Regional Medical spokeswoman Anum Arif. She replied with this emailed statement:
“Complications affecting newborns are tragic situations, and we extend our deepest sympathies to the families involved. We believe in the legal process, and while our hearts go out to these families over all they’ve been through, we dispute the allegations presented today, and we look forward to all the facts emerging as the legal process allows.”
We've also reached out to the law firm representing Colman, but have not yet heard back. We'll update when we do.