August 8, 2017
A South Florida obstetrician was found negligent in the December 2013 delivery of baby Earl, Jr. (EJ), who suffered permanent brain damage. Parents Earl Reese-Thornton, Sr. and Marla Dixon were awarded $33.8 million in a medical malpractice judgment in April 2017.
During the delivery, the court found, Dr. Ata Atogho walked away from the room for long periods of time. At one point, he stepped away to take an eight-minute-long phone call from his stockbroker. Dr. Atogho failed to deliver the child via C-section, later falsifying Marla Dixon’s medical record to make it appear that she had refused a C-section. The nurse in charge later testified that Dr. Atogho never offered Dixon a C-section, even though the patient was begging for one. Baby EJ was born blue in the face with limp limbs, and by the time he was revived by a medical team, he had suffered severe brain damage from loss of oxygen. EJ was later diagnosed with hypoxic ischemic-encephalopathy. Dr. Atogho blamed EJ’s condition on Dixon, claiming she had not pushed hard enough.
This is not the first time Dr. Atogho has been sued in a medical malpractice case for his negligent delivery of an infant in 2013. Besides Dixon, two others mothers have previously sued Dr. Atogho for seriously injuring their newborns. One infant suffered permanent brain damage like EJ, and another was permanently disabled due to nerve damage in the shoulder and neck as a result of Dr. Atogho’s use of a vacuum device during delivery. All three mothers were teenagers receiving care at Jessie Trice Community Health Center in Florida, a federally funded organization that serves many of Miami’s low-income and uninsured; all three babies were delivered at the North Shore Medical Center, where Dr. Atogho was the on-call obstetrician.
Despite their recurring malpractice rulings, Dr. Atogho has received no reprimand, nor has disciplinary action been taken against his Florida medical license. Because he worked for a federally funded health clinic, Dr. Atogho is also not personally liable for the $33.8 million judgment.
Now three years old, EJ will need round-the-clock, lifetime medical care, including numerous surgeries, a nurse, and daily medications.