doctor suspended after baby born without face
Sarah Biren
Sarah Biren
December 29, 2023 ·  4 min read

Doctor Suspended After Baby is Born Without Face

Marlene and David were overjoyed when they found out they were expecting. For the next nine months, they attended the necessary doctor and ultrasound appointments and were reassured that the baby would be healthy. It seemed like smooth sailing for the new parents. When the big day came, the sad truth was revealed: the baby was born with severe abnormalities.

“He Will Only Survive For a Few Hours”

Rodrigo was born on October 7 at the São Bernardo Hospital in Setúbal, Portugal. He was given only a few hours to live by his doctors. The parents were shocked. Throughout the pregnancy, they were not warned of any sort of complication.

Marlene visited a private clinic for her routine ultrasounds during the pregnancy. Dr. Artur Carvalho oversaw three of these scans and brought up no issues about the baby’s development.

When she was six months pregnant, the mother underwent a fourth, more intensive, 5D ultrasound at another clinic. The doctor there spoke about the baby’s potential abnormalities, but at a follow-up appointment with Dr. Carvalho, the mother was told to dismiss these concerns.

“He explained that sometimes some parts of the face are not visible (on ultrasounds) when the baby’s face is glued to the belly of the mother,” Rodrigo’s aunt, Joana Simao, told a local broadcaster. [1]

Only after the birth were the abnormalities clear and almost fatal. Rodrigo was missing his nose, his eyes, and part of his skull. Fortunately, two weeks later, the baby boy is still surviving in intensive care, and his parents sent a complaint about Dr. Carvalho to the Portuguese Prosecutors’ Office.

Marlene and David shared pictures of their new son with his face covered on social media. The posts display the pain the parents are going through and garnered much love, encouragement, and prayers from their community. 

Medical council officials have voted to suspend Dr. Artur Carvalho over allegations of negligence that have spanned back for over the last decade. The doctor himself has given no public comment.

Read: Baby Was Photographed with the 1,616 IVF Needles It Took To Conceive Her

Other Complaints Against Dr. Carvalho

Rodrigo’s case provoked public outrage when the story hit Portuguese media, bringing past incidences to light. According to the health officials, six other cases were re-opened and possibly more may be discovered as parents share their personal stories with Dr. Carvalho failing to find or warn them about health issues during their pregnancy period. 

In 2011, a baby was born with severe brain damage, deformed legs, and facial disfigurements. The mother, Laura Afonso, claimed to have submitted a complaint against Carvalho, but was dismissed by a prosecutor. Her child is now eight years old. After years of treatments and operations, he is unable to walk or speak. [2]

In another case, the baby had died only a few months after. That was in 2007. This case was also dismissed without a trial.

Fear of Medical Negligence

Miguel Guimarães, president of Portugal’s medical association, reached out to Dr. Carvalho to discuss the allegations, and the doctor agreed to cease conducting medical procedures during the investigation. Soon after, the body’s disciplinary council met and voted for Carvalho’s suspension from his medical duties for six months.

“There is strong evidence” of the doctor’s negligence, which “may lead to a disciplinary sanction,” according to Alexandre Valentim Lourenco, medical council chief for the southern region.

This outrageous story raised questions about the Portuguese health system and how issued complaints are received. In the meantime, Lourenco stated that he hopes the doctor’s suspension will help reassure distressed pregnant women as the complaints are evaluated.

Read: Baby Born with ‘Brain Outside of Skull’ Believed to be the First Survivor of Exencephaly Diagnosis

What is Considered Medical Negligence?

Medical malpractice cases are terrifying since we depend on medical personnel to care for our wellbeing, and sometimes our lives. We rely on doctors because they are doctors who have studied, trained, and became certified to help people. That should be enough to trust them, right?

However, cases like Carvalho do occur and it’s important to be aware of what constitutes medical malpractice so we could understand and expect how we should be treated under a doctor’s care and to hopefully prevent other people from suffering from a similar injustice.

In order to claim malpractice, in the US, the incident needs to check off these characteristics:

  1. The practitioner violated standard care practice.
  2. The practitioner caused injury due to negligence.
  3. The practitioner caused injury that resulted in significant damages, like disabilities, loss of income, suffering, or large medical bills.

Here are some examples of medical negligence:

  • Failure to diagnose
  • Misreading or ignoring laboratory results
  • Providing unnecessary surgery
  • Surgical errors or wrong-site surgery
  • Prescribing improper medications or dosages
  • Poor or lack of follow-up or aftercare
  • Premature discharge
  • Disregarding or not take account of necessary patient history
  • Failure to prescribe proper testing 
  • Failure to recognize symptoms [4]

With hope, doctors who practice negligence will be brought to justice and their patients will receive a speedy recovery. Until then, it’s prudent be aware of what constitutes standard procedures and what is considered unlawful. 

Read next: Mom Warns About Sunscreen After 14-Month-Old Daughter Ends Up in ER

  1. AFP. ABC News. Portuguese doctor suspended after baby born without a face leaving parents devastated October 25, 2019
  2. Rebekah Scanlan. News Corp Australia. Doctor suspended after baby born without a face October 25, 2019
  3. BBC News. Portuguese doctor suspended after baby born without a face October 24, 2019[4] American Board of Professional Liability Attorneys. What is Medical Malpractice?