Kernicterus and Hyperbilirubinemia

High Court Proceedings Issued

JMW Solicitors has recently issued High Court proceedings after it was alleged that a baby boy was left severely mentally and physically handicapped as a result of midwife negligence.

Baby Thomas (name has been changed) was born following a normal pregnancy and labour. He and his mother were discharged from hospital after only a few hours.  However by the next day, Thomas had become unwell. Midwives visited over a number of days and though they noticed and documented that he had developed jaundice they failed to take any blood samples or refer him for further review. 

Eventually when Thomas was five days old a midwife took a blood sample to test for the level of bilirubin his blood. By this point Thomas was not feeding well and his weight had decreased. The blood sample indicated that his liver is not working properly and the family rushed him to hospital.

By the time Thomas and his parents arrived at hospital it was clear he was seriously ill and he was showing signs of kernicterus, a severe form of jaundice which affects the brain, which had developed due to the delay in receiving treatment. He was given a blood transfusion to treat the condition and phototherapy which uses light to breakdown the bilirubin. However, it was too late to reverse the effects of the illness and the bilirubin poisoned his brain cells. Thomas now has cerebral palsy, which affects both his cognitive and physical ability and his hearing has also been affected.

The Trust has admitted that the midwife who visited the family when Thomas was one day old should have arranged his admission to hospital for review by a doctor. It is expected that if this had happened Thomas would have made a full recovery.

Jaundice, is characterised by a change in skin colour and occurs as a result of the liver being underdeveloped and unable to function fully. While jaundice is common in the newborn baby and often harmless, Thomas’s jaundice developed within the first 24 hours of his life and as such it should be treated as a medical emergency.

Eddie Jones, Head of the Clinical Negligence Team at JMW Solicitors, Manchester is the family’s solicitor. He added, ‘The evidence in this case clearly demonstrates that Thomas should have received treatment sooner than he did. Kernicterus can in some cases be prevented by speedy diagnosis and adequate treatment. JMW Solicitors have acted in similar cases in the past with high value compensation awarded. We hope this case is successful in order to allow Thomas’s family to provide him with the additional care a child with cerebral palsy requires.’

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