The case of the Miami obstetrician who took a call from his stockbroker in the middle of delivery and injured the infant has been reopened. The son of Marla Dixon and Earl Reese-Thornton, Sr, suffered permanent brain damage as a result of their doctor’s poor bedside manner, and received $33.8 million in a medical malpractice lawsuit in April. Marla was asked to be interviewed by the health department on Thursday, May 4th, about the day of the birth, which was first investigated by the department in September 2016, one year earlier. The department is notified whenever a patient plans to file a malpractice lawsuit. Officials reviewed the details in records during the initial case, but never interviewed the parents directly. “It’s our understanding that they’ve reopened the investigation,” said the parents’ attorney Richard “Bo” Sharp. The obstetrician, Ata Atogho, who was absent from Marla’s side during the critical moments in her delivery still works in a private practice in North Miami Beach with privileges at Jackson North Medical Center and Memorial Miramar Hospital.
Doctors in Tallahassee contracted to review such lawsuits had recommended closing the complaint, and the state said additional action could be taken after a judgment is issued or a case is settled. Sharps had indicated that he wasn’t surprised when the health department initially dropped the issue. He said he has “never seen a finding against a doctor based on one of these complaints.” However, once the case was pursued, the judge found Atogho to be negligent and that he had directly harmed the baby by ordering the drug used to strengthen Dixon’s contractions be restarted. He was also found liable for failing to perform a Cesarean section during a certain window of time in the delivery. By the time the child emerged, he was blue in the face and his limbs were not moving. The testimony of the nurse present at the time Atogho ordered the contraction inducing drug be restarted was heard in court. She testified that the doctor fabricated a note entered into Dixon’s record after the delivery stating the woman had refused a C-section.
Because Atogho was employed at the federally funded Jessie Trice Community Health Center at the time of the baby’s delivery, the Florida Board of Medicine did not reprimand him and his license remained fully operational although a Board of Medicine review could include imposed fines, probation or other restrictions if the doctor is considered a danger to the public. No other disciplinary action was taken against the man. Instead, the government was set to fund the payout. This is despite the fact that Atogho had injured others in the past.
According to three lawsuits filed in Miami-Dade federal court, Atogho delivered two other babies the same year who were left injured. The lawsuits were filed by the infants’ mothers — all teenagers receiving care at the same medical center for low-income under- or uninsured patients. A spokesman for the health department wouldn’t say whether the agency was planning to revoke Atogho’s license, or is even investigating the doctor. The reason why the case has been reopened is still being established.