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Settlement for death of young mother and her baby at a London Hospital

Pre-eclampsia missed by junior doctor with devastating consequences

Photo of pregnant woman: istock

5 September 2012

Specialist clinical negligence solicitor Sanja Strkljevic has settled a claim for compensation brought by the widower of a 35 year old woman who died in the 28th week of her pregnancy.  The couple’s unborn child also died.

Our client’s wife was pregnant with their fourth child.  In August 2007, she attended the A&E Department of a large London Hospital complaining of pain in her chest.  Her blood pressure was high and her urine test results were abnormal showing excess protein and blood.  The junior doctor who assessed her diagnosed epigastric pain and reassured Mrs X that the pain was normal during pregnancy and that she had nothing to worry about.  Mrs X was sent home that afternoon.  However, Mrs X was suffering from pre-eclampsia and required urgent assessment by the obstetrician, admission and treatment in hospital.  Pre-eclampsia causes high blood pressure and is a dangerous complication of pregnancy for mother and baby.

Mrs X’s husband called the ambulance the next day because she developed problems with her breathing.  By the time the paramedics had arrived, Mrs X was unresponsive. She suffered a cardiac arrest on arrival to the hospital.  She was resuscitated and placed on life support which was withdrawn later that evening.  Her baby’s death was confirmed shortly after her arrival to the hospital.  The cause of Mrs X’s death was intracerebral haemorrhage resulting from eclampsia and HELLP syndrome.  HELLP syndrome is a life-threatening obstetric complication of pre-eclampsia.  The NHS Trust carried out its own internal investigation, which was critical of the care that had been provided to her.  The Trust found that if Mrs X had received proper treatment, she and her baby would have probably lived.

Mrs X’s husband instructed medical negligence specialists Leigh Day & Co to investigate a claim for compensation arising from his wife’s death.  The NHS Trust admitted responsibility for her death at an early stage.  Leigh Day & Co undertook a detailed investigation of the compensation due to her family for the loss of wife to Mr X and mother to the couple’s three children, two of whom were of pre-school age.  A six-figure settlement for Mr X and his children was agreed and approved by a High Court Judge.

Sanja Strkljevic, Mr X’s solicitor said:

“At what was an exciting time for this family, the tragic loss of Mrs X and her baby would have been avoided had the junior doctor recognised that her symptoms were classic symptoms of pre-eclampsia and made the urgent referral to the obstetric team.  I am, however, pleased that the Trust carried out a thorough investigation into the circumstances of her care, the lessons from which I hope have been embraced by the professionals at this hospital.  Whilst no amount of compensation will bring Mrs X back, the settlement should enable her family to employ a carer to help with the upbringing of the children and to provide the services she would have been providing had she not died.”

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