Martin and his mom, Donna, touched everyone who met them. The case of malpractice during Martin’s delivery was awful, indisputable and completely preventable. It resulted in substantial brain damage, cerebral palsy and need for around-the-clock care.
Donna sued and was able to obtain compensation to help take care of Martin. At that point, Donna could have stepped back from the spotlight, and honestly, who would begrudge her for doing that? But Donna wasn’t finished. She decided to turn this experience into something positive for Illinois and the country, seizing the opportunity to fight anti-patient legislation in both Springfield, IL and nationally. She wanted to make sure that patients who were hurt by their healthcare providers could hold those providers accountable and receive fair compensation for their suffering. Sometimes she even took Martin and her family with her to lobby.
Martin’s medical malpractice ultimately proved fatal, but he lived life with a terrific spirit. We will miss Martin very much.
In this photo is a group of kids, including Martin Harnett of Chicago. When Martin's mom Donna arrived at the hospital to deliver, her labor wasn't progressing. Her doctor broke her water and found out that it was abnormal. Rather than considering a C-section, Donna's doctor started to administer a drug to induce contractions. Six hours later, she still hadn't delivered, but her son's fetal monitoring system began indicating that he was in severe respiratory distress.
The doctor finally decided it was time to perform an emergency C-section, but it was another hour before Donna was taken into the operating room. During that time, the doctor failed to administer oxygen or take immediate steps to help Martin breathe. After he was born, Martin was in the intensive care unit for 3 weeks.
Later, Donna learned that Martin had substantial brain damage and cerebral palsy--a direct result of the doctor's failure to respond to indications of serious oxygen deprivation and delivery in a timely manner. Donna's doctor told her not to have any more children because there was a serious problem with her DNA, which could result in similar disabilities in any of her future kids. Since then, Donna has given birth to three perfectly healthy sons.
Donna sued the doctor responsible for Martin's delivery and received a settlement. She is thankful she has money from the settlement to help cover the costs associated with Martin's care that aren't covered by health insurance, such as the wheelchair-accessible van that she bought for $50,000 and the $100,000 she spent making changes to her home so her son can get around the house in a wheelchair.
What would Donna have done without the money from that settlement? It is a scary thought because Martin is going to require a lifetime of care. When we put caps on recoveries and say there is an absolute limit to how much someone who has created a problem has to pay out, we have to think about it in terms of real-life stories, such as Martin's. Martin will live for a long time, and he is going to need help. Somebody needs to be responsible for that. The person who caused this should be responsible for it. That is pretty basic justice in America.
Sadly, Martin did not live a long time. But his legacy certainly lives on.