U.S. Jury awards Moroccan woman $3.25 Mln in compensation for medical error

Fatima Belhak, a U.S. citizen of Moroccan descent, has been awarded $3.25 million in a compensation lawsuit for a botched episiotomy when giving birth in 2014.

She told The Quad-City Times that the verdict is an acknowledgment of the suffering she will deal with for the rest of her life and an injury that could have been avoided.

When she gave birth to her now-8-year-old son Zayd in January 2014, Dr. Denice Smith, then working for Women’s Care Specialists, performed a fourth-degree episiotomy to assist in the birth.

According to the suit, the episiotomy wasn’t necessary, and Smith failed to diagnose Belhak’s condition after the procedure and failed to provide proper post-operative care for it. This caused Belhak to be in pain and caused other medical costs.
While the suit was filed in 2016, because of court procedures, an earlier procedural mistrial, scheduling difficulties with Arabic translators and the COVID-19 shutdown of the courts, the case went to trial in March.

Belhak told medical staff something felt wrong after the birth but she was told everything was normal. After being discharged, her feelings of pain, discomfort and wrongness solidified, and after calling the doctor again, they advised her to come in for an appointment a few days later.

She and her husband decided to head to a Genesis Health System emergency room, where the extent of the problem became evident. They were advised to go to University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics in Iowa City immediately. After receiving care there, Belhak had reconstructive surgery six months later to try to repair damage.

However, the case is far from over as the attorneys of the defendants (Women’s Care Specialists and Dr. Smith, Lane & Waterman) are planning to appeal against the verdict.


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