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Stillbirth caused by Hospital Negligence

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The death of a baby girl who was stillborn due to the negligence of a hospital is a very tragic case and one which our medical negligence department handled with great care and sensitivity, securing an admittance of negligence from the hospital.

Bolton NHS Stillbirth Negligence

The Bolton NHS Foundation Trust admitted a breach of duty of care to our client and made a £170,000 out-of-court settlement, but as medical negligence solicitor Daniel Phelps says, "it’s not about the money; it’s about accepting responsibility.  It’s also about answers for the client and the long-term effects on the client and the family."

Our client was only 29 at the time of her pregnancy. Her medical history included a previous caesarean section for failure to progress in labour and foetal distress, as well as a 12-week gestation miscarriage.

She had experienced a healthy pregnancy with no complications, rang her hospital when she was in the very early stages of labour and was told to wait until her contractions were even and regular, throughout this period, her foetal movements were normal.  She was seen in triage three days later when she was having contractions.

Whilst in hospital, CTG monitoring (cardiotocograph) provided a continuous recording of the baby's heartbeat and her contractions and showed an active foetus and normal traces.

However, our client struggled with her pain and was administered pain relief and states that during this period she asked for a caesarean section to be considered.  Nothing to this effect was documented in her notes.  Over the next few hours, she requested an epidural but there was a delay of over six hours – which the trust later accepted did not meet its timeframes.  She was given syntocinon to speed up her labour but later, on handover between shifts, concerns were noted with her CTG and meconium stained liquor was recorded.

What is Meconium?

Meconium is the early stool passed by a newborn soon after birth; however, in some cases, the baby can pass it whilst still inside the uterus if they are under stress and it is therefore often a warning sign of foetal compromise.

After consultations, a CAT 2 caesarean section was ordered, which means delivery within 75 minutes, not a CAT 1 (within 30 minutes).  This was questioned by the theatre co-ordinator, but the Consultant at the time was adamant.

Our client was prepared for theatre but sadly during this time period the baby’s health deteriorated and the baby girl was born with no signs of life and no heart rate.  She was taken to resuscitation and attempts were made to revive her with cardiac compressions and ventilation breaths.

A neonatal trolley was not immediately available, although quickly obtained, but after 20 minutes, it was agreed that resuscitation attempts be stopped and the baby was pronounced dead.

In this case, histology revealed Chlorioamnionitis. This is an infection of the placenta and the amniotic fluid and can happen when the amniotic sac is broken for a long time before birth.  In the most serious of cases of Chorioamnionitis it can result in stillbirth, as was the case here.

“This is a very sad case.  The young family already have a seven-year-old son and had been trying for a long time to have another baby, and as such, their second child was very much wanted and anticipated. This was a very preventable death were it not for such an appalling series of medical mistakes,” said Daniel.

NHS Hospital Failures

In this stillbirth negligence case, failures were made in :

  • obstetric advice
  • midwifery delays
  • anaesthesia delays
  • failure to request a category 1 section resulting in delays to delivery

It was alleged that had syntocinon been discontinued the baby would not have been as compromised, blood flow would have improved and hypoxia (low levels of oxygen in body tissues) could have been mitigated and she would have been born alive.

“No amount of money can replace their loss but it does help to cover my client for periods when she cannot work or needs future counselling,” added Daniel Phelps.

“Our client has quite understandably been left anxious for any future pregnancies and the tragic loss of her daughter has affected her ability to cope with other areas of her life, her relationships with family and friends and her education and planned future work as a teaching assistant.”

How can we help

For legal advice on medical negligence stillbirth compensation or any obstetrics or gynaecological compensation cases call our team on 0161 785 3500 or

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.

This blog was posted some time ago and its contents may now be out of date. For the latest legal position relating to these issues, get in touch with the author - or make an enquiry now.

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    Written by Daniel Phelps