Baby suffers severe kernicterus brain damage after midwife failures - £15 million  

 Evan, 7

Seven-year-old Evan suffered devastating kernicterus brain damage as a newborn after community midwifes failed to arrange a blood test and refer him to hospital. Evan developed jaundice at just 24-hours old, which should have been carefully managed but was not. He is severely physically disabled and requires lifelong 24-hour care. Although nothing can make up for the loss of an independent life he now has access to a comprehensive lifetime care package after a successful legal case by Eddie Jones of JMW Solicitors led to Evan being awarded £15 million in compensation over the course of his life.

Negligent jaundice treatment

As Evan’s delivery was uncomplicated; he was born in a good condition and had started to take regular feeds, he was allowed to go home less than 24 hours after his birth. Evan continued to feed well throughout his first night at home.

However in the morning Evan’s parents noticed he was jaundiced and when the community midwife called to check on the family they reported this to her. The midwife was unconcerned by Evan’s jaundice and did not check him over or arrange for a blood test. This was negligent as babies who develop jaundice within 24 hours of birth are at high risk of complications.

Guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) state that a test to check the levels of bilirubin, the substance that causes the yellowing of skin and eyeballs, in the baby’s blood must be carried out as soon as possible and checked at regular intervals. If the level passes a certain threshold the baby must be urgently treated in hospital with phototherapy or a blood transfusion to reduce the amount of bilirubin and prevent a serious type of brain damage called kernicterus from occurring. Bilirubin can cross the blood brain barrier and cause severe damage and even death if left untreated.

The midwife said she didn’t need to visit the following day and left without giving any advice to the family about what to do if Evan showed any other signs of being unwell and /or his jaundice worsened.

Battling to save Evan’s life

The following day Evan’s jaundice was more severe and his parents were extremely alarmed when they noticed his urine was dark orange. They called the community midwifery team and a different midwife was sent to check on Evan and who arranged his immediate transfer to hospital.

Once in hospital it was apparent to doctors how seriously ill Evan was. He was immediately given treatment with phototherapy to try to reduce the amount of bilirubin in his blood but this wasn’t enough and he also needed a blood transfusion. The doctors were battling to save his life and although they eventually succeeded Evan was left with severe and permanent kernicterus brain damage.

Now seven, Evan is unable to speak or walk and requires 24-hour specialist care, a range of equipment and adapted housing so his disabilities can be safely managed.

Successful medical negligence case

This was an extremely tragic case as Evan had been born completely healthy and if his jaundice treatment had not been delayed he would have made a full recovery and gone on to lead a normal life. There was absolutely nothing that could make up for this but Evan was entitled to compensation to cover the cost of his lifetime care needs and ensure he has the best possible quality of life.

Evan’s compensation claim was dealt with by Eddie Jones, head of medical negligence at JMW and a specialist in kernicterus cases. Eddie was successful in obtaining a compensation settlement totalling £15 million to ensure he can have access to specialist carers 24-hours a day, as well as a specially adapted house and financial security for the rest of his life given he will never be able to work.

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