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Five-figure settlement for first-time mother who suffered depression after delayed surgery

A mother who suffered anxiety and depression after delayed surgery for a serious anal tear sustained in childbirth has received a five-figure settlement.

4 February 2020

The mother, who we have called Stella, aged in her 30s, suffered a difficult and frightening birth experience during which she had to be cut extensively to allow the baby to be delivered safely.

The cut to the perianal area was repaired in theatre. Unfortunately, the repair broke down and advice received from doctors after that point was not very clear. 

The non-negligent  4th degree tear broke down shortly after Stella was discharged and she was presented with an option of immediate or delayed repair to the wound. There was a lack of consultant input and rather than a proper discussion of pros and cons, Stella was told that she faced the prospect of having a colostomy bag for a year if she opted for immediate surgery.  Terrified by this prospect but not properly understanding what it meant in practical terms nor appreciating any risks of the alternative, she opted to delay repair.

However the delay led to bowel incontinence, inability to resume sexual activity, and pain. There are cases in which the delay allows the area to heal, but in this case it did not and Stella’s suffering continued.

The longstanding physical problems resulted in adverse mental health effects, depression and anxiety which have affected Stella’s ability to enjoy what should be a very happy time in her life. Specialist clinical negligence solicitor, Anna Brothers, said Stella was thankful to the obstetric team who took prompt action to ensure that her baby was born unharmed.

But she explained that GMC guidance advises that doctors should explain “the options to the patient, setting out the potential benefits risks, burdens and side effects of each option, including the option to have no treatment.” 
In this case, expert opinion is that the most appropriate treatment for Stella would have been to have an ileostomy bag following which the injury to the rectum could have been addressed. 

Stella’s compensation has allowed her to take at least a year off work to try to focus on her new baby and to undergo the colorectal surgeries which should resolve her health problems.

Stella said:

“I’m so thankful to Anna Brothers for helping me with my case. Without her I wouldn’t have got anywhere. She is very caring and she has helped me more than she knows. I can’t thank her enough.”

Anna Brothers, clinical negligence solicitor at Leigh Day, said:

“Obviously it would have been better if Stella had been given more appropriate advice on an immediate course of action after she suffered the tear in childbirth. Instead, her physical ordeal led to anxiety and depression. I am glad that we were able to secure a settlement which means Stella can take time off work to enjoy being with her child.”

Information was correct at time of publishing. See terms and conditions for further details.

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