Could babies' lives be saved if more midwife concerns were voiced and heeded?

11th May 2016 Clinical Negligence

Through my work as a specialist medical negligence solicitor at JMW I have sadly encountered numerous tragic cases where babies have died due to avoidable mistakes that were made during pregnancy or labour. The errors include the refusal of doctors to carry out a C-section when there were clear signs that a natural birth posed risks to the baby and mother.

It's a heart-breaking scenario that no woman should ever have to endure but yet it happens time and again. It's also a political issue with some saying that hospitals are keen to steer women away from C-sections in a bid to save money due to the financial pressures they are under. But a price cannot be put on the life of a baby so doctors must ensure women have access to C-sections as required.

Midwives can play a crucial role in supporting women who require a C-section, for instance because of a traumatic delivery with a previous baby or due to the baby being in the breech position. Although they do not have the power to ultimately make that decision they can help women to make their voice heard and speak up on their behalf.

They can also play a role in recognising when an emergency situation has arisen that needs immediate intervention by doctors. This was highlighted in an article by the Manchester Evening News today on the inquest into the death of a baby girl in Manchester. During delivery a midwife challenged a doctor's decision not to carry out an emergency C-section within 30 minutes, having categorised her case as less urgent. The woman was rushed to theatre but the situation deteriorated and the baby died four days later.

The MEN reports that it is still unclear if anything could have been done to save the baby as the midwife and doctor have provided differing versions of events. However if any small positive can be taken from such a tragic case it is that the midwife had the initiative and confidence to speak up and challenge what she believed to be the wrong decision for this woman and her baby.

Women can be vulnerable during pregnancy and childbirth and the more people speaking up for them and their baby the better. If concerns had been voiced and heeded on the cases I have dealt with the outcome would have been very different for the families involved.


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Eddie Jones is a Partner and Head of Department located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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