Do Lawsuits Improve Patient Safety? McCabe Settlement Is Proof


On April 2, 2010, the family of Diane McCabe agreed to a record $5.2 million settlement with Albany Medical Center Hospital and Albany obstetricians, Dr. Sean Young-Lee and Dr. Cheryl Burack. The McCabe family is represented by John K. Powers, Esq. of Powers & Santola, LLP. It is believed to be the largest malpractice cash settlement ever in upstate New York for a woman who died in childbirth.

The McCabe family refused to have their silence bought by the cash settlement.

Diane McCabe, 32 years old, of Rotterdam, New York, bled to death over the course of 15 hours following a Cesarean Section delivery of her second child at the Albany Medical Center Hospital on September 3, 2007. The lawsuit claimed that Dr. Lee cut Diane McCabe’s uterine arteries during the cesarean section adn as a result, she hemorrhaged in the operating room, losing 60% of her blood volume. Dr. Lee refused to heed calls from the attending physician on duty that Diane McCabe was bleeding internally. Colleagues of Dr. Lee testified that they told him that she was bleeding and needed to undergo an operation to fix the problem. Dr. Lee demanded they wait six hours. Nurses also testified that Diane McCabe’s vital signs were not being recorded after the C-Section operation.

An unusual part of the settlement is that it requires the Albany Medical Center Hospital to fund for the next 20 years a Diane McCabe Memorial Quality Lecture series focusing on topics related to enhancing patient safety. It also requires the hospital to buy a maternal and neonatal simulator to be used in staff training on the labor and delivery unit and to change procedures on the use of a machine that monitors a patient’s vital signs during childbirth. The Albany Medical Center Hospital must purchase the maternal and neonatal simulator within sixty days of the settlement and change the default settings of its OBIX Perinatal Data System machines.

The mandated changes to the hospital’s procedures will improve patient safety for years to come and will help prevent future tragedies. When someone blames lawsuits for increased insurance premiums and excessive precautionary tests by physicians, tell them about the McCabe settlement and how lawsuits can make a difference in improving patient safety.