Cerebral palsy caused by failure to treat jaundice in newborn - £19 million

'Max', nine

Max has a range of physical disabilities as well as learning difficulties after suffering permanent brain damage as a newborn due to community midwife failures. Max had jaundice that went unchecked and untreated and as a result he sustained kernicterus brain damage. Eddie Jones, a partner in JMW’s medical negligence team specialising in kernicterus and other child brain injury cases secured £19 million in compensation for Max so that he can access the 24-hour care, specialist housing and equipment that he will require for the rest of his life.

Start of ordeal

Max was his parents’ first child and was born in a good condition a few days before his due date. His Apgar scores were 9 at one minute and 9 at five minutes. He fed well and he and his mother Beth were allowed to go home when he was just seven hours old.

The next morning Beth and Max’s father Jamie noticed that Max was jaundiced. Early that afternoon they had their first visit from the community midwife and both parents drew her attention to Max’s jaundice. The midwife advised the couple to put Max’s Moses basket near the window to expose him to sunlight – a step that would do nothing to treat Max’s jaundice and is against guidelines from the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence. Max was not given a blood test as he ought to have been due to his jaundice appearing in the first 24-hours of life. The midwife also failed to inform Beth and Jamie that should Max’s condition worsen they should seek immediate medical advice and what to look out for.

Community midwife failures

Two days later Max was visited at home by a student community midwife. Beth was very concerned as Max had not been feeding very well and had been sleepy. The day of the midwife visit he was irritable and was arching his back, His jaundice was also worse. The midwife tried to reassure Beth and Jamie that everything was fine with Max and as such they attempted to carry on as normal, as difficult as this was.

Two days later the family was visited by another community midwife and Beth and Jamie relayed their significant concerns about Max’s deteriorating condition. The midwife did not take these seriously at all but did take a blood sample, without telling the couple what this was to test for. Beth and Jamie could do nothing but try to get on with things however later that afternoon they received a concerning phone call.

The hospital rang to say Max needed to be brought in as soon as possible and when they arrived he was quickly whisked away.

Beth and Jamie were put in a waiting room without anyone telling them what was happening to Max and they were extremely distressed. The blood test done by the midwife had revealed Max had extremely high levels of bilirubin – the substance that causes yellowing of the skin and eyeballs. He was given phototherapy, an exchange blood transfusion and intravenous antibiotics and fluids but now it was too late to prevent brain damage. Max was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy and hearing loss.

Successful medical negligence case

Max’s parents were put in touch with Eddie Jones at JMW who took on their case. Eddie found it was negligent of the community midwives who attended Max not to take a blood test and ensure he received urgent hospital treatment for his escalating jaundice and deteriorating condition. If Max had received phototherapy or a blood transfusion when his jaundice first appeared then he would have made a complete recovery and avoided the life-long disabilities he was left with. Although nothing could fully compensate Max and his family for the appalling failures, Eddie was successful in obtaining an admission of negligence from the hospital trust and £19 million in compensation for Max to have the best possible quality of life.


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