St. John's mother whose child died not satisfied with sanctions for doctor who admitted to errors

·3 min read
Crystal Whalen holds her daughter, Karlee, on Jan. 19, 2019, at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's. (Crystal Whalen/Facebook - image credit)
Crystal Whalen holds her daughter, Karlee, on Jan. 19, 2019, at the Health Sciences Centre in St. John's. (Crystal Whalen/Facebook - image credit)
Crystal Whalen/Facebook
Crystal Whalen/Facebook

The mother of a child who died in 2019 is angry about the sanctions her obstetrician received after acknowledging errors she made during the delivery.

Crystal Whalen said the sanctions for Dr. Krista Brown, announced last week, weren't enough for the mistakes she made.

"It was a slap on the wrists for her and a slap in my face," said Whalen.

In 2019, Brown was the physician caring for Whalen, 38, who was having her first child, a daughter named Karlee.

When you know it could have been avoided, it's harder, and it's hard not to be bitter, it's hard not to be angry. - Crystal Whalen

The child's heart rate was high for a prolonged period on Jan. 18. Karlee died shortly after she was delivered the next day.

Whalen says she asked for Karlee to be delivered by c-section on Jan. 18 but it didn't happen.

She says she believes Karlee would have survived if she had been delivered then.

"When you know it could have been avoided, it's harder, and it's hard not to be bitter. It's hard not to be angry," she said.

"Karlee definitely should have been delivered when the tachycardia [rapid heart rate] was picked up. The doctor was aware of it. She was aware of the fetal heart rate, the inability to capture contraction patterns and the patient's discomfort level and she just basically ignored it."

WATCH | Crystal Whalen says she still feels bitterness and anger over the death of her newborn: 

After Karlee's death, Whalen said, Brown didn't speak with her and didn't offer condolences. She said it was left to her partner to tell her that their child had died.

"Karlee's father left the room and then he came back in and he said, 'Our baby is gone,' and I said, 'No, that can't be true.' I looked at him and I said 'You're joking' and he just shook his head no. He was white as a ghost [and had] tears in his eyes. I will never get that image out of my eyes," said Whalen.

Brown was reprimanded for negligence at a College of Physicians and Surgeons of Newfoundland and Labrador hearing on June 14.

An agreed statement of facts that was read at the hearing said:

"Dr. Brown acknowledges that her care of the patient and, in particular, her failure to appreciate the significance of the fetal heart tracing of the patients' infant daughter on Jan. 18, 2019, and the consequent need for urgent intervention, demonstrated errors in judgment."

Krista Brown/Facebook
Krista Brown/Facebook

Brown was reprimanded and ordered to pay for professional development courses about management of a delivery and patient communication. She was also ordered to pay $10,000 for the proceedings.

Whalen says that wasn't enough.

"We lost out … me, Karlee's father, our families, our friends," she said. "But the one who lost out the most was Karlee."

She says restrictions should have been placed on Brown's licence to practise medicine.

"They should have said she couldn't deliver babies while she is doing the courses or she could practise gynecology but you can't do obstetrics, you can't deliver babies anymore, or you can't for a certain period of time," said Whalen

Whalen says she has written the college to say she is displeased with the tribunal panel's decision.

Brown hasn't responded to CBC's requests for comment.

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