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Young mother left heartbroken after hospital failings led to death of baby
A young mother who was left inconsolable after a catalogue of failings by an NHS Trust led to her baby girl being delivered stillborn in July 2010, has received compensation.
When the Polish woman, who is in her 20s, requested help for the excruciating pain she was in shortly before her baby’s birth, a doctor at the London hospital shouted at her and told her that he had never seen such a hysterical woman before in his life.
Sharon Yap, a specialist medical negligence lawyer at Fentons Solicitors LLP, said her client, who couldn’t speak any English, was 39 weeks pregnant when her friend phoned her community midwife on her behalf to say that the woman’s waters had broken.
“Rather then telling her to attend an assessment in accordance with the hospital’s own Labour Ward Protocol for Pre-Labour Rupture of Membranes (PROM), the midwife told her to stay at home and wait until her contractions had begun,” said Sharon.
“When her contractions started her family took her to hospital where she underwent some tests and was told that although she had a blood infection there was nothing to worry about as it wasn’t unusual,” she added. “When her pain started getting harder to deal with she requested a Caesarean but was told she had to give birth naturally. This was despite her first baby having been born by Caesarean section in Poland.”
The next day, the woman was transferred to the delivery suite. By this point, her baby’s heartbeat had begun dropping and her temperature had rocketed to more than 102 degrees Fahrenheit. But even when she began getting contractions every three minutes, none of the doctors did anything.
“Finally at around 2am a doctor saw my client and told her that she would be having a Caesarean,” said Sharon. “Her pain had become unbearable by this point but when she asked for assistance delivering the baby, the doctor simply shouted at her and said she was being hysterical.
“When she was being prepared for the procedure just before 4am she remembers feeling her baby moving inside her and her husband and brother waiting nearby,” added Sharon. “However, after the Caesarean was performed, even though she couldn’t see what was going on because of the drape blocking her view, she knew she had lost her baby. When she was met by doctors with an interpreter and the midwife a short time later, she was told me that if she wanted any compensation they wouldn’t create any problems.”
The woman’s baby was born via an emergency Caesarean at 04:45 with no signs of life. After attempts to resuscitate her proved unsuccessful, she was declared dead at 05:25. A post mortem identified that her baby had been perfectly normal and healthy. They could not specify a cause of death.
“When my client had her first scan in England after moving from Poland with her husband and young son in October 2009, her midwife failed to arrange an interpreter which meant her records didn’t specify that she’d already had a dating scan in Poland,” said Sharon.
“This meant the Estimated Date of Delivery (EDD) the hospital gave her was more than two weeks later than it should have been,” she added. “When the hospital provided an interpreter for an antenatal visit the discrepancy was discovered but incredibly, the Specialist Registrar failed to alter the dates in her records. As a result, for the remainder of her pregnancy all care was based on the wrong EDD.”
Sharon said that after her client had had problems with her first baby, delivered through Caesarean section in Poland, she had asked a doctor during one of her antenatal visits if she could have one again. “The doctor said that if she hadn’t given birth after three hours, a Caesarean would be performed,” she said. “Despite this, she had to wait two days before she was given the procedure.
“A damning Serious Untoward Incident (SUI) report, which was released soon after the incident, stated that although there was evidence my client had a complicated blood infection, a full sepsis screening was never performed,” said Sharon. “The report strongly criticized the fact that the interpreter the hospital booked to attend didn’t turn up and her brother had to interpret on her behalf. Investigators said that even though her baby’s heart rate kept falling and despite her being classed as a high-risk patient whose waters had broken over 24 hours ago, doctors failed to act when they should have decided to expedite the delivery much earlier.
“This case was noteworthy because in English law there is no award for stillbirth and such cases do not traditionally get a bereavement award,” she added. “Compensation is only usually available if the baby is born alive and then dies. However, we successfully argued it was right that in view of the ‘unsuccessful conclusion of her pregnancy’ she was entitled to claim for compensation in line with the equivalent current statutory award for bereavement damages.
“Although no amount of money could ever possibly hope to compensate my client for the horrendous heartbreak and trauma she suffered with losing her baby, we were satisfied that the hospital promptly admitted the catalogue of serious failings that led to her devastating loss.”
After an early letter of claim was served following the damning SUI report, the NHS Trust admitted negligence and made an offer of £15,000 which the client accepted.
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