Medical Negligence
By Gary Daly
Latest News

The tipping line between human error and breach of duty during birth

Medical mistakes made during childbirth can lead to devastating consequences, recent statistics show that approximately 30,000 women a year suffer birthing trauma in the UK. This can range from issues that were overlooked during pregnancy or an issue which was not actioned upon during the baby’s delivery, resulting in trauma to the baby and/or the mother.

Birth injuries can range from bruising of the baby’s head to more serious and life lasting injuries such as fractured bones and brain damage. The NHS recorded 8,134 cases of serious harm to mother or baby between April 2016 and March 2017. Unfortunately, 288 of those cases resulted in death. By nature, the birth process can be very overwhelming albeit an exciting time but when there is an injury or damage caused that could have been avoided, due to negligence, it can become a devastating time.

Below are some examples of birth injuries to the baby due to doctor or midwife negligence;

  1. failure to follow correct protocols and procedures

  2. failure to spot signs that the baby is in distress before and/or during labour

  3. Delays in dealing with complications during delivery

  4. Mothers being turned away from maternity departments despite reporting potentially serious problems

  5. Failure to differentiate between normal and abnormal situations

If you suspect that you or your child have been a victim a birth injury caused by negligence of your healthcare professional, it is important that you seek legal advice as soon as possible. In Northern Ireland, there is a 3-year statute of limitations. This means a claimant has 3 years to issue legal proceedings. Therefore, it is important claimants are aware of this and take action as soon as possible. Where the claimant is a child, statute of limitations begins to run when the child turns 18. However, it is best not to allow for unnecessary delay and seek legal assistance as soon as practicable.

Becky’s Case

In 2002, Becky Tyler was born ‘navy blue’ at East Surrey Hospital, with the umbilical cord wrapped three times around her neck. She was eventually resuscitated but did not breathe for 10 mins following her birth. After a traumatic week when Becky suffered seizures and was put into an induced coma, the consultant told her parents they had ‘been lucky’ and they could take Becky home. No MRI scan was given to ascertain possible brain damage.

Nevertheless, Becky struggled to feed, and her movements were not right. Unfortunately, Becky’s parents’ concerns were dismissed by the consultant. When Becky turned 7 months old, she was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and as Becky grew up, it became clear that she would never sit up or walk. She was fitted with a gastrostomy at 20 months and Fiona (Becky’s mother) became her full-time carer.

One day, Becky came home from school and asked her parents why her brain was different from her classmates. This prompted the Tylers into investigating Becky’s birth. After beginning the investigation, it was discovered that the trust had information about failings during the birth which had not been shared with Becky’s parents.

Having obtained medical expert reports and issuing proceedings in the High Court, acknowledgement was finally received from the trust that mistakes had been made, primarily with CTG monitoring. Medical experts agreed that had doctors and midwives intervened and delivered Becky earlier, she would likely have been born uninjured. As a result, Becky received a letter of apology from the Hospital Trust and is also set to receive a multi-million-pound settlement.

At PA Duffy and Company our expert medical negligence solicitors can advise on the most appropriate approach to take if you suspect you have been a victim of a birthing injury. Our medical negligence department is vastly experienced in such matters, we have your best interest at heart, and we appreciate that this can be an overwhelming and stressful time for you and your family. It is a process that can take a long time, but our expertise and sensitivity allow us to advise you through every step of the process ensuring you are fully aware of what is happening whilst providing you with professional advice.

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