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Baby Death, Parental Persistence and a Seven-Year Battle for Answers

Over the years, JMW’s Clinical Negligence department has acquired a wealth of experience in dealing with maternity-related cases.

We have worked on behalf of many parents whose new-born babies have died or who have been left with very serious disabilities which affect them for the rest of their lives as a result of mistakes made before, during and shortly after their delivery.

Very often families find that they have to fight to get an acknowledgement of the cause of their child’s death and the complaints process through the hospitals rarely provides the answers they need.  This is highlighted in a new case in the press recently.

Rhiannon and Richard Stanton’s daughter, Kate, died soon after being born at a maternity unit in Ludlow, Shropshire, in March 2009. It was later found that she received poor quality care after her mother’s pregnancy was wrongly categorised as ‘low risk’.

A report by an expert midwife, Debbie Graham, has just been published and details how the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospitals Trust which runs the Ludlow unit had failed to properly investigate Kate’s death.

Rather than focusing on providing Mr and Mrs Stanton with clarity around what had gone wrong, the Graham investigation noted “the service rather than the service user was placed at the center of the trust’s response”.

Instead, letters to the Stantons showed “a lack of sympathy…a lack of honesty, openness and an apparent unwillingness to listen”.

The Trust’s Chief Executive has accepted the report’s findings, noting that this new investigation had only come about “because of the determination of Richard and Rhiannon to bring to light the failures of the original investigation”.

It is heartening to see a positive conclusion to what must have been a tragic and very trying set of circumstances for the family.

Their courage and refusal to give in is, in my opinion, typical of many families for whom I have worked. It is my view that hospitals should be doing more to help relatives understand what happened and to help them cope with their bereavement.    

Obtaining answers should be an easier process and one which sees families’ interests and emotions put first - not the “service”, as Debbie Graham has identified.

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