Medical Negligence

Judge rules midwives were negligent for failing to ensure a ‘controlled delivery’ of baby, causing serious injuries to mother

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Hayley Collinson

Manager of the Fixed Recoverable Costs Team & Senior Associate Solicitor

5 min read time

A Judge has ruled that a hospital trust was negligent in its care of a mother who suffered serious injuries when giving birth to her first child.

The mother, who was 24 at the time, suffered a significant and life-threatening haemorrhage and multiple vaginal tears, including a third-degree internal perineal tear.

Midwives at the hospital were found to have been negligent in failing to take appropriate measures to slow down the birth, leading to the ‘uncontrolled delivery’.

The mother needed three hours of repair surgery after giving birth– including blood and plasma transfusions in theatre – fearing for her life as she was so unwell, before being transferred to a high dependency room and remaining in the hospital for several days.

She suffered a prolonged recovery period with significant pain and psychological trauma, as she was left unable to sit comfortably for six weeks and unable to drive for 12 weeks.

The Trust denied any fault throughout a medical negligence legal claim, made on the woman’s behalf by Hudgell Solicitors, rejecting a number of offers to settle the matter out of court.

The case proceeded to a five-day trial before a judge, at which evidence from experts in midwifery and obstetrics was heard, as well as evidence from the mother herself.

The court was told midwives should have encouraged the mother to take outward breaths, or ‘pant’ – as this helps slow and control the delivery of the baby’s head and body.

Instead, she was told to ‘go with your body’ and ‘if you feel you need to push, just go with it.’

Experts told a court hearing it was ‘vanishingly rare’ to see such extensive tearing occur non-negligently, with the injuries similar to those sometimes caused by assisted deliveries when forceps or a ventouse suction cup need to be used to help deliver a baby.

The judge ruled the failure to instruct the woman to pant – a method independent experts told the court was an ‘intrinsic midwifery method’ when attempting to slow down a birth – had been negligent, and that the negligence had ‘materially contributed to the injuries suffered’.

The mother was awarded £30,000 in damages. The settlement awarded by the Judge was more than had been sought by the claimant to previously settle the case.

 

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‘I was in so much pain’

The mother said she was in ‘complete agony and panic’ when her baby boy was born.

It was frightening. I honestly can’t describe the level of pain I was in, and I have a high pain threshold.  It was just completely chaotic.

This was my first baby and so I didn’t know what to expect. You get told before you have your first baby that it will really hurt, but it was the chaos and panic, and how I was left afterwards, that made me question what had happened.

I can just remember all of a sudden being in so much pain and, as my baby was being born, the midwife was still putting her gloves on. She just managed to scoop up my son as he was born.

Never once was I told to pant. I was just told to go with my body and that I should push if I felt I needed to.

The impact on me was huge. When I was in theatre I thought I was going to die, not knowing if I’d even get to see my baby. It was almost four hours before I saw my baby for the first time and then I was in constant pain for weeks.

I couldn’t wash myself or dress myself, and of course, I couldn’t enjoy being a new mother.

Injuries caused significant physical and psychological injuries

Medical negligence specialist Hayley Collinson, of Hudgell Solicitors, represented the mother in the case and said: “This was a very serious situation as my client lost a large amount of blood from the haemorrhage that she suffered following the tear during delivery, to the point where she asked a doctor if she was going to die when she realised how seriously ill she was.

The Judge ruled that the negligence contributed to the very serious injuries she suffered.

It is frustrating that my client had to be put through the ordeal and stress associated with a multiple-day trial in order to achieve the justice she so rightly deserved. She needed answers and was determined to see the case all the way through.

When things go wrong people deserve answers, and there needs to be an investigation. In this case, without our involvement, the Trust would have simply told our client they had done no wrong. Other experts, and a judge, disagreed.”

The mother added:

Everyone involved with my case was absolutely fantastic. I’d specifically like to thank Hayley Collinson, who oversaw my case with the utmost professionalism and understanding; speaking with her became like confiding in a friend and her help and guidance really helped me through the challenges of my case, especially during the court process.

I am so pleased that after so many years, we got the right result and I finally have some closure.

Hudgell Solicitors instructed Barrister Leila Benyounes, of Parklane Plowden, to represent the client in the court hearing.

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