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A stillborn baby was born at Assaf Harofeh Hospital on Monday after doctors allegedly delayed responding to fetal monitor alerts, thinking that the alerts were due to a malfunction.

Yossi Hayut and his 24-year-old wife, in her 40th week of pregnancy, came to the hospital on Sunday after the woman's doctor said she had lost amniotic fluid. The hospital hooked the woman up to a fetal monitor and began to induce labor.

After nearly 24 hours, the monitor showed an irregular fetal heartbeat. According to Hayut, "The monitor was showing distress, but the doctors thought there was a problem with the monitor and changed the wires on the device."

By the time the doctors realized that the fetus really was in distress and sent the woman for an emergency cesarean section, it was too late. During the procedure, the baby boy died. He would have been the Hayuts' first child.

According to the birth summary record given to the family, the monitor showed at 3 P.M. on Monday that the fetus's pulse had slowed, but then the baby's movement returned to normal. After another half an hour, there was a similar alert, and after another 20 minutes, the monitor sounded a third time. The medical staff changed the monitor cables four times, thinking that there was something wrong with the machine.

Only after 25 additional minutes was the woman sent for an emergency cesarean, which ended a few minutes later with a stillbirth.

"One can't help but think that if they had taken her for a cesarean immediately, none of this would have happened, and I'd be a father now," Hayut said.

Hayut has filed a medical malpractice complaint with the police against the hospital.

Assaf Harofeh Deputy Director Dr. Yitzhak Scharf called the death of of the fetus "a tragedy that could happen anywhere."

"During the birth there were interruptions on the monitor, and it was masking an accurate picture of the fetal pulse," Scharf said. "For 20 minutes, efforts were made to fix the problem, and when fetal distress was detected, the woman was sent to the operating room, but the baby was born dead."

Scharf said the hospital could not determine the cause of the baby's death, since the family refused to allow an autopsy.