Marla Dixon was just 19 years old when her baby boy was delivered with limp limbs, a blue face, and a severe case of brain damage due to a lack of oxygen in December of 2013. The baby had to be revived by a medical team since the child was unconscious upon delivery. The child’s life was saved; however, the consequence of the doctor’s carelessness is severe and will affect Marla’s baby for the rest of his life. This was never expected to happen in Marla’s case because her pregnancy had been fairly low-risk. In Ms. Dixon’s case, the doctor is entirely to blame.
Ata Atogho was the doctor in charge of Ms. Dixon’s delivery. While most doctors would give their undivided attention to their patients during delivery, Atogho did not. Atogho would walk away from the room for long periods of time and in one instance, he left for an eight-minute phone conversation with his stockbroker. These actions occurred after Atogho ordered nurses to give Dixon drugs to strengthen contractions after he was unsuccessful in performing a Cesarean. This behavior continued for well over 90 minutes, which all attributes to the final outcome for Ms. Dixon’s child.
Atogho was charged under federal medical malpractice laws. He was specifically charged under the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) since the incident occurred at a federally funded health center. The FTCA allows private individuals to sue the United States in federal court for any tort that is committed by someone who acts on behalf of the United States. By working at a federally funded clinic, Atogho was working on behalf of the United States.
During the trial, eight doctors were called to testify and both agreed that the lifelong problems the child now has to live with were a result of oxygen deprivation that occurred at the time of labor. A nurse, Yolande McCray, was also called to testify and she revealed that Atogho falsified information in his reports so that he could easily put the blame on Dixon for the complications that occurred. Atogho tried putting the blame on Dixon for not pushing hard enough.
Dixon was awarded $33.8 million in the malpractice judgment by U.S. District Judge Robert Scola. This judgment, which is funded by the taxpayers instead of Atogho, will help Dixon pay for the around the clock medical care her son will require for the rest of his life. Along with the judgment, Atogho has been relieved of his duties at North Shore Medical Center.
This is not the first time Atogho has been charged with malpractice in a delivery.
The year before Atogho was involved in the delivery of two babies who became permanently brain damaged under his care. He also delivered a third child who is now disabled for life. The mothers in these cases were also teenagers like Marla, and came from low-income families.
In one of the cases, Atogho used a vacuum device to help deliver the baby. As a result of this action, the child was left disfigured. The mother ended up settling for a sum of $92,200. In the other case, Atogho waited too long when it came to performing an emergency C-section which caused permanent brain damage to that child. All three mothers, including Dixon, received their medical care during pregnancy from the federally funded Jessie Trice Community Health Center, which provides medical care for low-income families and for people without insurance.
When questioned, Annie Neasman, the president and CEO of Jessie Trice, stated that Atogho is no longer associated with the center. She also maintained that the clinic meticulously checks the credentials and records of all doctors before hiring. Neasman also provided information about how the clinic has improved their way of delivery for pregnant patients. Before, nurses and midwives were provided during prenatal care while the obstetrician was brought into the fold once labor happened. Now, obstetricians are employed full-time with the clinic and are in touch with patients before delivery.
As of right now, Atogho has not had his medical license revoked. His physician profile with the Florida Department of Health also fails to reveal his past transgressions and his license is listed as being “clear and active”. Currently, Atogho works in a private practice at Jackson North Medical Center and Memorial Miramar Hospital.