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Parents recover compensation following the death of baby boy at Barnet Hospital.

A baby boy died soon after being born when abnormalities in his heart rate were missed

Fetal monitor

5 February 2015

Specialist medical negligence solicitors, Nicola Wainwright and Suleikha Ali, have obtained a five-figure sum of compensation for bereaved parents, known as LM and MM, following the avoidable death of their son shortly after his birth at Barnet Hospital.

LM had an uneventful pregnancy. On going into labour she was admitted to Barnet Hospital with her husband and was attached to a CTG monitor, so that her baby’s condition could be monitored.

As LM’s labour progressed it became clear that her baby was in difficulty as the CTG monitor was showing drops in the baby’s heart rate.

LM reports that a doctor told her that her baby was showing signs of distress probably as a result of the umbilical cord being around his neck but despite this the CTG monitor was switched off overnight.

The following day the monitoring of the baby’s heart rate continued to be non-reassuring. Doctors were called but did not attend and the midwife tried to transfer LM to the labour ward but was told that it was full.  

LM and her husband MM requested a caesarean section because they were worried about their baby but their request was refused.

Finally, later that afternoon a further prolonged drop in the baby’s heart rate led to LM being taken to theatre for delivery.

Her husband requested that a translator be allowed to go to theatre with LM because she had only a very basic understanding of English but was told that only he could be present in theatre as he would be responsible for medical decisions, despite the fact that he may not understand fully what was being advised.

Once inside the theatre the doctors decided not to intervene and instead let the labour continue naturally despite the baby still showing signs of distress.

It was not until approximately two hours after arrival in theatre that the doctors attempted an instrumental delivery of the baby by forceps, but the attempt had to be abandoned and LM underwent an emergency caesarean section. However, by then LM’s baby was in such poor condition he sadly died at 19.30 at 32 minutes of age

Following the death of their son MM was left to look after his wife with no support. The hospital didn’t  tell the family’s GP of the baby’s death and so midwives arrived on their doorstep asking to see the baby unaware that he had died.

Barnet Hospital mentioned counselling to the couple but did not provide it. MM said that it felt like the hospital staff could not wait to “get rid of them”

LM and MM instructed Nicola Wainwright and Suleikha Ali of Leigh Day to represent them at the inquest into their baby’s death.  

The Coroner recorded a narrative verdict in which he found that there was failure to pick up the abnormalities in the baby’s heart rate and a failure to follow the Consultant plan and NICE guidelines in not checking on the baby’s condition by taking a fetal blood sample at 18.09.

The Coroner concluded that these failures in care led to there being a lost opportunity that if taken would have resulted in LM’s baby surviving.

The Coroner also wrote a Regulation 28 letter to Barnet Hospital regarding the use of translators as he felt the MM’s request that one be allowed into theatre in his place should not have been refused.

Following the inquest Nicola and Suleikha pursued a claim in clinical negligence for the family and were able to obtain compensation for them.

Commenting on the care LM received at Barnet Hospital Suleikha Ali from the medical negligence team at Leigh Day, said:

“This was a case in which these first time parents put all their faith in the doctors who they believed to be the experts. Even when they knew that something was wrong and repeatedly requested a caesarean section they were ignored and falsely reassured.

“MM in particular found trying to come to terms with what happened hard as he has been left feeling guilty for not having challenged the medical decisions and for not having ‘taken charge’. Despite this he was left to ‘pick up the pieces’ and had to put all his feelings to one side to provide his wife with the support she needed.”

Nicola Wainwright, a partner in the medical negligence team at Leigh Day concluded;

“What is so upsetting about this case is that there were numerous opportunities for hospital staff to intervene to ensure LM’s and MM’s baby’s safety but they failed to do so until it was too late, leaving this family devastated.

“Understandably, neither LM nor MM have been able to recover from the loss of their first child, and whilst the compensation we have obtained for them will cover costs they have incurred as a result of their baby’s death and enable them to pay for needed psychological treatment, it will, of course, not bring their baby back.”

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