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7 million secured for family and brain damaged baby

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When a birth at a North West hospital went sadly wrong and was mismanaged, the baby was deprived of oxygen during labour and as such suffered severe cerebral injury - our medical negligence solicitors pursued a claim on her behalf, with the mother as her litigation friend,* and recently secured a substantial multi-million pound settlement.

The NHS Foundation Trust involved admitted a breach of duty of care and made an out-of-court settlement for just over £7 million.

Baby brain damage due to lack of oxygen

In this case, the mum’s pregnancy and antenatal care were normal and there were no concerns, the problems began with prolonged labour, mismanaged monitoring and a delayed caesarean section.

“This is a tragic case of a healthy baby denied oxygen during labour and as a result sustaining a life-changing neurological condition,” said Medical Negligence Solicitor, Daniel Phelps.

“As well as cerebral damage and epilepsy, her life skills are very limited and her emotional maturity has plateaued, had a caesarean section been carried out earlier the neurological injury could have been avoided. The settlement made represents the severity of her injury and the life-long assistance and care she will need.”

As the child has grown up, she has not achieved the usual milestones, coordination and dexterity have become problems and she suffers from epilepsy.  A later MRI scan revealed hypoxic ischemia, a type of brain injury that occurs when the brain experiences a decrease in oxygen or blood flow, which can occur in labour.

“The family came to Pearson Solicitors for advice when they recognised her disability becoming more apparent as she grew up,” said Daniel Phelps.

Delayed medical treatment and prolonged labour

When the mother went into hospital in the early stages of labour the initial CTG was normal and labour continued, although very slowly.  CTG is a cardiotocograph which can be used to monitor the heart rate of a baby and is used to assess its wellbeing as labour progresses. It also measures the baby's heart rate, together with the mother's uterine contractions.

However, the labour continued to progress slowly during the course of the day and Pethidine pain relief was administered.  Later in the day the medical team conducted an artificial rupture of the membranes, as breaking the membrane containing the fluid around the baby (known as the waters) is often enough to make contractions stronger and more regular. Blood stained liquor was however noted when the membranes were ruptured.

It was also noted during the course of observations that the CTG trace could not be found, however later in the day when the mother moved positions a trace reappeared and doctors were satisfied with it.

More pain relief in form of Pethidine was given and labour continued to be slow, but several hours later it was noted that the baby’s heart beat was dipping.

Foetal blood sampling was then also performed.  When a woman is in active labour to determine if the baby is getting enough oxygen this test is done to check the blood pH of the baby, it can determine well-being during delivery.

The results of this sampling were borderline, and testing was repeated at intervals.  It was later noted that this was negligent as an hour 's wait in between testing was deemed too long.

A low foetal heart rate could indicate the baby is not getting a sufficient amount of oxygen to the brain.  This combined with a low or borderline foetal blood pH level also suggests that the baby does not have enough oxygen and labour is not progressing very well.  In these cases, a caesarean section is preferable and that should have been the case here had the labour been managed properly.

However, in this case, a plan was just made for the administration of Syntocinon and an epidural.

During this period the CTG trace dipped from time to time and Syntocinon was increased ready for delivery.  The doctor then attempted a ventouse delivery and a forceps delivery, but as noted by a midwife at the time neither were successful, the foetal heart rate again dipped, and contractions were poor and intermittent.  The mother was then admitted for a caesarean section.

“The caesarean section should have been progressed earlier and the forceps and ventouse delivery could have taken place in theatre so if not successful the mother could have had a quicker caesarean delivery. Significantly, a delay of 50 minutes from the decision to transfer to theatre only compounded matters,” said Daniel.

“There was a catalogue of errors which have had a catastrophic impact not only on the Claimant herself, but her wider family who have continued to care for her and assist her with her day-to-day life.  This award will ensure that long after her family are unable to care for her she will have sufficient funds to pay for a robust care package.”

“Over the years we have got to know the family well and wish them all the best for the future,” he added.

How can we help?

We have a wealth of experience dealing with a wide range of medical negligence cases. For legal advice on childbirth negligence cases contact our Medical Negligence Solicitors on 0161 785 3500 or email

*A litigation friend represents a “protected person” with their legal issues. In this case it was the mother of a child under the age of 18, but it can also be an adult who lacks the necessary mental capacity.

Please note that the information and opinions contained in this article are not intended to be comprehensive, nor to provide legal advice. No responsibility for its accuracy or correctness is assumed by Pearson Solicitors and Financial Advisers Ltd or any of its members or employees. Professional legal advice should be obtained before taking, or refraining from taking, any action as a result of this article.

Written by Daniel Phelps


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