Hospital screening errors leave mother of baby with severe genetic condition traumatised

March 2015

A mother was left traumatised by the suffering of her baby boy and the shock of watching him die after a hospital failed to detect obvious signs of a severe genetic condition on a scan.

Sara Billany was told she was expecting a healthy baby girl after her 20 week scan. However she gave birth to a baby boy with genetic condition Edward’s Syndrome, which is usually fatal and causes severe deformities, growth retardation and severe learning disabilities.  

Scarborough General Hospital failed to detect classic signs of Edward’s Syndrome at the anomaly scan and Sara was not informed that her baby had the condition. This meant she was denied any opportunity of counselling and support as well as any choice about whether to continue with the pregnancy. Sara had to endure the unexpected ordeal of watching baby Kyle suffer in pain for two days before he passed away in her arms. She was left traumatised and depressed by the ordeal and says it was compounded by a lack of compassion by some of the hospital staff who attended to her and Kyle after his birth.

After Sara sought legal advice from the specialist medical negligence solicitors at law firm JMW the hospital trust admitted that it failed to detect the signs of Edward’s Syndrome at the 20 week anomaly scan. A five figure compensation settlement has now been agreed however Sara is only concerned with ensuring that lessons have been learned.

Steven Brown, Sara’s medical negligence solicitor at JMW, commented: “This was an absolutely tragic case. Kyle was a much wanted baby and for Sara to be told that she was expecting a healthy baby girl only for her to deliver a severely ill baby boy who could not survive was shocking and devastating for her.

“Although errors like this are rare, in Sara’s case they were very worrying. It was not a little slip up. Our expert identified clear abnormalities which should have been picked up at the scan.

“It meant Sara was totally unprepared for what lay ahead and had no counselling or support about Edward’s Syndrome or any choice about whether to continue with the pregnancy. It also meant the medical staff responsible for the birth were unprepared and the whole situation became panicked and difficult to manage. This had a profound psychological impact on Sara who continues to suffer today.”

Sara, 33, from Scarborough, said: “The poor little soul just suffered every minute after his birth and watching him in such pain will stay with me for ever. The doctors said that the condition was incompatible with life and I couldn’t bear for him to endure any more pain than he had already so I agreed to turn off his life support and let him pass away peacefully

“The pain and shock I went through is indescribable. I had felt that something was not right during the pregnancy as Kyle was not kicking and moving as much as with my first pregnancy. However I was told it would just be the position of the placenta and that everything was progressing normally.

“When I go back on things now I just wish I had spoken up more loudly about my concerns but no one would listen to me and you just end up feeling silly for not trusting what they are telling you.

Sara, who has a 12-year-old daughter Keira and a two-year-old son Sonny and works part-time for a furniture company, found out she was pregnant with Kyle in September 2009. On 14th December 2009 she underwent the 20 week anomaly scan, which is the point when Edward’s Syndrome is normally identified.

However the sonographer wrongly reported that key markers for Edward’s Syndrome were normal. In actual fact the scan showed clear signs of the condition including cysts on Kyle’s brain, a strawberry shaped skull, excess fluid surrounding the baby and a small chin. These signs taken in consideration with Kyle’s small size should have led to further tests which would have confirmed the diagnosis of Edwards Syndrome.

Sara continued to attend regular antenatal appointments and no concerns about her baby’s development were raised. On 9 March 2010 she was seen by an obstetrician and told the doctor that she had noticed that she could not feel the baby moving as much as usual but was told this could be due to the position of the placenta.

Sara went into labour in the early hours of 14th May 2010 expecting to give birth to a healthy seven or eight pound baby girl and gave birth to Kyle, who weighed just 3.13 pounds at 1.47am. Kyle’s heart was not beating and he wasn’t breathing. As those responsible for Kyle’s birth were unaware that he had Edward’s Syndrome he was resuscitated.  

Sara was told that he probably had Edward’s Syndrome and that this was ‘incompatible with life’. Sara agreed that she did not wish for Kyle to suffer unnecessarily and to let him pass away peacefully.

The hospital trust conducted its own internal investigation into Sara’s case after she complained to them about the treatment that she had received. The investigation concluded that potential markers were missed which would have led to Sara being offered any further scans or tests, including an amniocentesis which would have provided a confirmed diagnosis and given Sara the opportunity to access counselling and support to cope with the tragic situation.

Most foetuses with Edward’s Syndrome die in the womb and the majority of those that are born die within their first year due to the seriousness of the condition, which causes heart abnormalities, kidney malformations, feeding difficulties, growth delay, breathing difficulties and other physical and mental disabilities.

According to the NHS Choices website Edward’s Syndrome affects around one in 3,000 to 6,000 live births. Only one in 12 survive beyond a year and those that do will live with severe physical and mental disabilities. 




For more information:

Samantha Meakin

0161 828 1981


Note to Editors

JMW Solicitors LLP is one of the leading Manchester law firms and offers a broad range of legal services to both commercial and private clients.  We are committed to providing legal services in a cost effective and timely manner.


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