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Victory for stillbirth campaigners

I was really pleased to read today that Jeremy Hunt has declared that all families who suffer a stillbirth will be guaranteed an independent investigation into the circumstances surrounding their child’s death.

There are on average 3,600 stillbirths in the UK each year and while it is clear that some cannot be avoided, far too many occur as a result of low staffing levels, poor advice to mothers, and substandard care during pregnancy, labour and delivery. 

It may be a surprise to some that under the current law the death of a baby during pregnancy or delivery does not allow for investigation by a coroner.  Because of this lack of independent investigation families are left to fight for the hospital itself to perform a review. 

In my caseload I have several stillbirth cases and the most frustrating aspect is often the unwillingness by the hospital defendant to properly investigate the circumstances of the claim.  Families have had to battle to get answers as to what happened and whether it ought to have been prevented. 

This is no more true than with my client’s the Powsneys who have spoken out on this issue regularly.  Adam and Hayley lost their son Joshua during his delivery in 2014.  After the fact it transpired that the hospital Trust were conducting an investigation into fetal and maternal deaths but when pressed it was noted that baby Joshua was not included in this review.  His parents were not informed and they had to take legal advice and obtain the opinion of medical experts before the true facts surrounding Joshua’s death were known.

This news from Jeremy Hunt today that families will be given access to independent investigation is welcomed, as I hope no other families have to fight like the Powsneys for something which should have been granted to them as a matter of course.

My optimism is tempered, however, as I note the link drawn by Jeremy Hunt between providing independent review and reducing the number of clinical negligence claims.  I hope that the investigation process focusses on shedding light on the errors made and improving service rather than dissuading families from seeking compensation that they are legally entitled to.

Adam and Hayley are going to be telling their story on Sky News tonight at 7pm. 

To contact myself or the team in relation to your own experience please do not hesitate to call us on 0345-872-6666

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