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March 17th 2016

Birth Negligence

Hospital pays compensation in medical negligence case relating to stillbirth of baby boy, but family still await a direct apology

Helena Wood

Helena Wood

Legal Executive, Clinical Negligence

Hospital pays compensation in medical negligence case relating to stillbirth of baby boy, but family still await a direct apology

A grieving mother says she is still waiting for an apology from a hospital four years after mistakes made during her pregnancy led to the stillbirth of one of her twins.

A grieving mother says she is still waiting for an apology from a hospital four years after mistakes made during her pregnancy led to the stillbirth of one of her twins.

Mum Kelly Attree, whose pregnancy was classed as ‘high risk’ as she was carrying twins and was diagnosed with gestational diabetes, delivered a healthy girl, Bliss, at 37 weeks.

However, her son Samuel was delivered stillborn, as errors during scanning meant the hospital failed to spot he had not grown in the previous five weeks, and that he had died a week earlier.

During investigations carried out as part of a legal claim through Hudgell Solicitors, medical records were obtained and independent experts consulted, identifying that during scans to measure Mrs Attree’s babies’ sizes, her son was ‘over-measured’ at weeks 33 and 35, giving the inaccurate impression he was growing.

As part of the legal case it was claimed that despite being scanned 10 times during the course of the pregnancy, staff at Doncaster Royal Infirmary failed to spot her son had stopped growing from 31 weeks onwards.

It wasn’t until Mrs Attree was booked in for an induction at 37 weeks that doctors realised he had died.

Compensation agreed following claim through Hudgell Solicitors

Now, Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Doncaster Royal Infirmary, has agreed to pay Mrs Attree a five-figure sum in compensation.

The claim cited the psychological harm she has suffered due to her baby being stillborn, whilst damages were also claimed partly to compensate her for Samuel’s funeral expenses, and the cost of psychological therapy which she has been recommended to undergo as a result of the trauma of Samuel’s stillbirth.

Despite agreeing to pay compensation, the Trust has not admitted liability, and Mrs Attree says Trust officials have not apologised directly to her for the error, something which has left her angry and upset.

She said “The hospital has never apologised, and I am hoping, probably in vain, that they will. They have never investigated what happened and I think they should have. Even though I know it wasn’t my fault, I beat myself up because I had gestational diabetes and wonder if that was part of why it happened.

“If they admitted it was their fault, not mine, it would go some way to give me a sense of closure.”

Independent medical experts identified baby scan failings

Independent medical experts consulted by Hudgell Solicitors concluded that had the measurements been recorded correctly, the sonographer would have had to alert the mum’s consultant and conduct further checks, such as a placental blood flow check, enabling them to realise Samuel was in danger and therefore deliver the twins early.

Mrs Attree, 40, who has three older children aged 11, 15, and 18 with husband Tom, in addition to Bliss, now four, had been admitted to hospital several times in the run up to the delivery.

She had been experiencing ‘tightenings’ but was always monitored and then sent home. She was eventually booked in to be induced at 37 weeks, and all the while she had been led to believe her babies were healthy.

When she arrived for the induction of her twins, on September 21, 2011, a midwife routinely checked her babies’ heart rates, and she was told by staff they could not find a heartbeat for Samuel.

Kelly Bliss and TomMrs Attree, from Mexborough, Doncaster, said: “We were so excited to pack the bags and go to hospital, and my children were expecting us to bring two babies home, but we didn’t.

“When I arrived at hospital the midwife found my daughter Bliss’s heartbeat straight away and went to find Samuel’s and went quiet. She went off to get someone else, and they said they were really sorry but they couldn’t find Samuel’s heartbeat. I just screamed. It was like I was in a dream afterwards, I felt like I was in a trance.

“I hadn’t had any reason to worry, if anything, I had felt more movement in the later stages of the pregnancy, but I have since been told that babies can be more active in their last hours, and that is something that haunts me now.”

After learning her son had died, Mrs Attree insisted on a Caesarean Section. She was given a general anaesthetic so was asleep for the delivery, and suffered a haemorrhage afterwards, losing two pints of blood.

Daughter Bliss was delivered safely, and Samuel was placed in a cot near her bed in a single suite away from the ward.

Mrs Attree was distressed when she held her son as he had not been washed and she could not get a lock of his hair as it was matted with blood.

She added: “When I left hospital after the delivery, they gave me his items back and I went to get his blanket and found his clothes were blood stained. It was impossible to get a lock of hair as it was matted. I was in a single room, but I could hear other women giving birth. It was absolutely horrendous.”

The couple had Samuel baptised and later held a funeral for him.

Four years after his death, Mrs Attree is still suffering with feelings of guilt over his death.

She says she has become fiercely protective of Bliss, and has been diagnosed as suffering from an adjustment disorder, after experiencing flashbacks, nightmares, and negative ‘what if’ thoughts.

Hospital missed opportunities to save baby Samuel

Medical negligence claims specialist Helena Wood, from Hudgell Solicitors said: “The independent medical opinion was that the hospital missed several opportunities to spot Samuel’s lack of growth, and therefore missed chances to save him.

“They should have realised there was a problem when they scanned her at both 33 and 35 weeks. Mrs Attree was a high risk pregnancy and she had been admitted to hospital on several occasions and therefore there were many opportunities to save Samuel.

“Our independent obstetrician was of the view that, had the problem been identified, the twins would have been delivered by around 35 weeks gestation, and had that been done, Samuel would have survived.

“The loss of Samuel has had an enormous impact on his mother, father, and siblings. The family feel unable to celebrate Bliss’s birthday, as it inevitably is a reminder of Samuel’s death.

“The Trust has agreed to pay compensation to Mrs Attree, and following this should now surely apologise personally to her for the errors made, as this would go some way towards alleviating the pain and suffering of this family, who have had to adjust to being a family of six, when they should be a family of seven.”

Mrs Attree is now involved with Angel Parents, a support group for parents coping with the loss of a baby, who are campaigning to have a national day of remembrance for baby loss.

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