Severe delay in delivering baby causes brain damage - £22.3 million

Ruth, 11

Ruth has severe cerebral palsy, is significantly physically disabled and has learning difficulties after maternity staff failed to act on signs that she was in distress during labour. As a result Ruth’s brain was starved of oxygen for several minutes causing permanent damage. After Ruth’s case was taken on by Melissa Gardner, a partner in JMW’s medical negligence team she was awarded £22.3 million in compensation to cover the cost of the life-long specialist care she will require.

Waters broke

Ruth was her mother Angela’s second child as she had previously given birth to a healthy baby girl. However there was a slight complication at the end of Angela’s first pregnancy when her waters broke several days before labour had started. In light of this when she became pregnant a second time it was decided that her antenatal care would be shared between midwives and doctors.

When Angela was 38 weeks pregnant her waters broke and she informed the midwife she saw at a routine antenatal appointment she had that day. The midwife examined Ruth and referred her to the antenatal day assessment unit. Checks were done and everything seemed to be OK so Ruth was allowed home and booked for induction of labour the next day.

Labour induced

Angela attended for the induction the following day and after her observations had been taken by a midwife this was begun. A CTG trace was set up to monitor the baby’s heart rate, which for the first few hours was normal. However by early evening the first sign that the baby may be struggling was apparent on the CTG when the heart rate dropped for a prolonged period. The midwife present recorded it as very suspicious.

Half an hour later Angela was transferred to the labour ward and a new midwife took over her care. The CTG trace showed decelerations in the baby’s heart rate, which was wrongly recorded as reassuring by the midwife. Angela was not checked by a consultant following her admission to the labour ward.

No monitoring

For some reason the CTG trace monitoring the baby’s heart rate was discontinued a short time later. The hospital claims that it was restarted after an hour but has not been able to provide evidence of this and claims that the recording has been lost.

In addition midwifery notes and observations were not recorded at this time and it was an hour and a half before any notes were made. By this point the midwife stated that the CTG trace was showing a persistently low heart rate, a fact that should have been of extreme concern.

The midwife called a doctor and another midwife to attend and Angela was placed on her side. The registrar doctor who attended confirmed in their recording that there had been a severe and persistent drop in Ruth’s heart rate

C-section delayed

The registrar examined Angela and found she was only 3cm dilated. The baby’s heart rate slowly recovered and a consultant was contacted with a plan formed to carry out an emergency C-section to get the baby out.

Angela was taken to theatre however the anaesthetist who attended, on four occasions, was unsuccessful in administering the spinal anaesthetic. This caused further delays in delivering Ruth and a general anaesthetic had to be given.

Ruth was born by C-section 40 minutes after Angela arrived in theatre. She was in a poor condition, was blue, floppy and had to be resuscitated. Ruth was later found to be very irritable and had abnormal jerky movements which had to be controlled with drugs. In the coming months scans and examinations confirmed she had suffered severe brain damage due to oxygen deprivation and had cerebral palsy.

Successful medical negligence case

Ruth will never be able to live independently, will require assistance with all aspects of daily living for the rest of her life and has been deprived of the chance to have a family of her own. She has significant physical disabilities and has learning difficulties. Her family felt something had gone badly wrong with her delivery and contacted the cerebral palsy specialists at JMW for advice, Their case was taken on by partner Melissa Gardner who conducted a thorough investigation and found that there had been appalling errors in the monitoring of Ruth’s heart rate, severe delays in delivery and that this had caused her to suffer permanent brain damage. Melissa was successful in obtaining an admission of negligence from the hospital responsible and later £22.1 million in compensation to provide the lifetime of care and specialist housing and equipment she will require.

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