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Case study: Baby Brain Damaged By Jaundice Errors To Receive Substantial Compensation
JMW secured a multi-million pound payout for a family after their child was not treated after being diagnosed with jaundice which led to brain damage.
Baby Flynn suffered permanent and devastating brain damage caused by severe jaundice when he was a newborn (known as kernicterus) after appalling failures in care by community midwives.
Flynn’s parents contacted the specialist solicitors at JMW for advice and their case was taken on by Eddie Jones. Eddie launched a legal battle for justice on their behalf and secured an admission of negligence from the hospital trust and is now negotiating a multi-million-pound compensation settlement that will provide Flynn with the specialist care, equipment and accommodation that he will require for the rest of his life.
Baby Flynn was born perfectly healthy after a normal pregnancy and delivery and he and his mother Donna went home the following day. Although Flynn was a healthy baby his mother did suffer from a condition that put him at risk of developing severe jaundice.
Later that day, once back at home, Donna and Flynn were visited by a community midwife who noticed that he was slightly jaundiced, as is common in babies but can have devastating consequences if it appears in the first 24 hours of life and is not monitored and treated effectively.
No action by three midwives
The midwife did not take any action and decided that Flynn would be given a full newborn physical examination (baby check) the following day. Flynn’s bilirubin levels, the substance that causes yellowing of the skin and eyeballs and can lead to brain damage went unchecked.
The next day Flynn’s jaundice had become more severe, which was picked up on by the midwife who came to do the newborn examination. The midwife discussed this with Donna who explained that her other children had also been jaundiced so the midwife concluded that nothing needed to be done. This was the second day that Flynn’s bilirubin levels went unchecked and therefore untreated.
On the third day Flynn and Donna were seen by yet another midwife who as with her colleagues noted his jaundice but did not test him to check if his bilirubin levels required treatment, which by this point they most certainly. However she decided that his jaundice should be reviewed the following day and a bilirubin test carried out if worse.
The next day the midwife who had initially visited Flynn and Donna attended once more. Flynn was still jaundiced but yet again nothing was done. By the fifth day Flynn was severely jaundiced, which was noted by the midwife who attended. The midwife suggested that a bilirubin test be done along with some other blood tests.
Not realising the danger their son was in Donna and her husband decided that they wanted to wait before putting Flynn through the tests and would attend the community birthing unit later that day for the test. They believed that as their other children had been jaundiced due to Donna’s pre-existing condition and no harm had come to them that Flynn would also be OK.
The midwife appreciated that he was at risk of brain damage but failed to escalate the situation to ensure that he was tested and received treatment and that his parents understood why this was crucial.
However, Flynn had also not been feeding properly so that afternoon his concerned mother called and spoke to the same midwife who advised her to take Flynn to hospital. Donna and Flynn’s father drove him straight to hospital where he was found to be very ill. Flynn was arching his back and had an abnormal cry, signs that his brain was being damaged. His bilirubin levels were found to be extremely high and treatment with phototherapy was started and he was later given a blood transfusion. However by now it was too late to prevent him from suffering devastating and permanent kernicterus brain damage.
The hospital trust responsible for the midwives did its own internal investigation into the failures in care provided which lead to his catastrophic brain damage, with damning conclusions. These are listed below:
- The midwives who saw baby Flynn at home noted his jaundice but did not act on it, which was going against hospital guidelines and those from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
- Although the midwives were aware of his mother’s condition, which put him at risk of severe jaundice, this was not properly documented in the medical records and post birth care plan was not put in place to ensure his bilirubin was tested.
- The midwives failed to appreciate the significance of Flynn’s jaundice developing in first 24 hours of his life.
- Even though Flynn was jaundiced at the time of his full physical newborn examination and it was documented in the records that he had also been jaundiced the previous day he was not tested or referred for treatment.
- When Flynn’s parents declined the bilirubin test the midwife did not escalate the situation to more senior practitioners or document in the records that she had explained the need for it to be done and the consequences if it was not.
- All of the midwives who attended Flynn at home failed to properly review the history of his jaundice in the medical records.
- The midwives took Donna’s word for it that her condition meant that there was a greater risk of Flynn being jaundiced and he was unlikely to be at risk rather than following professional standards and ensuring that he was tested.
- The midwife who Donna spoke to when she called with concerns about his feeding failed to arrange for him to be taken to hospital by hospital in case he deteriorated further and advised his parents to bring him in by car.
Although the hospital investigation admitted several failings it was still vital that Flynn’s claim was handled by a specialist solicitor with experience of successfully settling kernicterus cases. This was so that the legalities could be dealt with as soon as possible and that Flynn will be awarded the best possible compensation settlement so that an appropriate care package can be put in place.
Luckily the family was put in touch with JMW’s Eddie Jones and he was able to ensure the case was won and that once the full extent of Flynn’s disabilities are understood he receives a substantial compensation settlement to help him to cope.
Have you also experienced medical negligence related to kernicterus?
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