Doctor Facing Suit in Infant's Death Testifies
The Times Leader - Wilkes-Barre, PA
Dec. 16, 1999
"Looking back, I wish I did some things differently," Dr. George Valenta tells court.
By David Weiss
WILKES-BARRE - Gina Godlewski might still be alive if Dr. George Valenta had attempted to deliver her and her twin brother in an operating room, according to the doctor's own testimony Friday.
Valenta opted to perform the deliveries in a birthing room- a decision the infants' parents contend led to an unnecessary delay when it was determined the mother needed an emergency Caesarean section in February 1998 Gina's parents, Joan and William Godlewski of West Pittston, have filed a lawsuit against Valenta, Dr. Robert Roe and the Geisinger Medical Center in Plains Township in part because Gina suffered oxygen deprivation during delivery. She died eight months later.
According to Joan Godlewski, Roe had been her doctor for 10 years. The Godlewski's say Gina suffered fetal distress when Valenta tried turning her in the womb. Brain damage occurred because Valenta waited 11 minutes to order the C-section after realizing the infant was in distress, the couple says.
Joseph Quinn, attorney for the Godlewski's, questioned Valenta aggressively Friday during the 10th and final day of testimony in the civil trial in Luzerne County Court of Common Pleas. Quinn often stood a few feet from Valenta, looking the doctor in the face.
"It never occurred to you to take her to an (operating room) as a precaution?" Quinn asked. "That's correct," Valenta replied.
Asked by Quinn if Gina would still be alive if the delivery had occurred in an operating room, Valenta answered in the affirmative. Three expert witnesses previously testified that taking Joan Godlewski to an operating room when she arrived at the hospital would have given her the best chance to safely deliver the twins. Jarod, now 2, is healthy.
Quinn asked Valenta if it would have been safer to take Godlewski to an operating room and try to deliver the twins vaginally. Under questioning from Quinn, Valenta acknowledged that if a vaginal delivery had failed and an emergency C-section were required, the necessary equipment would have been accessible in an operating room.
"It certainly would have been better," said Valenta, who admitted the birthing room was not equipped to perform an emergency C-section.
But Valenta said he had no medical reason at the time to deliver the twins via C-section and that the decisions he made seemed appropriate.
"I certainly expected that both babies were going to be born normally - vaginally and healthy," he said. "I thought we could anticipate a normal delivery.
"Looking back, I wish I did some things differently."
Valenta had only one prenatal visit with Godlewski, which occurred three days before she went into labor. Every ultrasound, including the one performed three days prior to birth, showed both babies in a headfirst delivery position, he said.
When Joan went into labor, however, Gina turned sideways. But because one of the twins' previous positions, Valenta expected Gina to revert to the headfirst position after Jarod was born, Valenta said.
Valenta testified that Godlewski had asked him upon her arrival at the hospital if she could have "a C-section," and he replied he did not think it necessary.
Quinn said Valenta was negligent by failing to abide by Joan Godlewski's request for a C-section and by failing to deliver the infants in an operating room.
When she was later taken to the operating room, the door was found to be locked, causing an additional delay until the keys could be found, the suit contends.
Court of Common Pleas Judge Mark Ciavarella said closing statements will begin at 9:30 a.m. Monday and deliberations will begin shortly afterwards.