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Stillbirth Caused by Clinical Negligence
Stillbirths can be devastating, taking a huge psychological toll on parents. In some cases, the outcome may have been caused by the negligence of a medical professional, and in such instances it is important parents are able to claim compensation for the suffering they have endured. The clinical negligence team at JMW is sympathetic and professional, with the experience needed to help you pursue your claim through what can be a very difficult time.
We understand how traumatic it can be to lose a child in this way. To discuss your situation with our caring and sympathetic team today and to find out more about making a stillbirth claim, call us on 0800 054 6512 or allow us to contact you by completing our online enquiry form.
Stillbirth is the death of a baby before or during a birth after 24 weeks of pregnancy. In one year in the UK, between five and six babies in every 1,000 are stillborn.
The most common causes of stillbirth are:
- Congenital defects
- Placenta coming away from the wall of the uterus
- High blood pressure
- Reduced oxygen levels to the baby (either while in the uterus or during birth)
Sometimes, the cause of death is clear, and good information about the underlying condition is available. However, often there is no satisfactory explanation. Death can occur suddenly in otherwise apparently normal mature infants and, at present, about half of stillbirths remain unexplained.
Even if the cause of death is identified (such as lack of oxygen), it may not be possible to explain what started the chain of events that led to death.
Many obstetricians will routinely induce all mothers with even moderately raised blood pressure and those who are significantly past their due date in an attempt to reduce the number of stillbirths, but often there is no action that can be taken to avoid this type of tragedy. Many parents have to live with not ever knowing fully what happened.
Parents need to know that everything that might have been done to avoid the baby's death was done, and support and explanation to the parents in such circumstances is a basic requirement of good practice.
While making a claim can help to compensate families financially, it can also help out in other ways. For instance, many families want to find the answers that might have been denied them at the time of their ordeal and to attempt to ensure that no other mothers and fathers-to-be suffer the same loss in the future.
Finding out the truth can never bring back a lost child but it can at least provide closure and help bereaved parents come to terms with what has happened.
Every stillbirth is a tragedy, yet despite measures being taken to reduce incidence, there remains concerns as to why these tragedies continue to happen. These include:
- Antenatal risk management
- Referral practices during pregnancy
- Management of growth restriction of babies in the uterus
- Foetal movement issues (reported by mother and acted on by professionals)
- Communication issues
- Importance of advising mothers on the risks of smoking and the importance of attending antenatal checks
One particular area of concern is that some parents attend hospital with a strong instinct that something is wrong and find that their worries are not taken seriously enough.
If things do go wrong, they will likely feel guilty for not being more persistent to ensure that their own doubts were acted upon immediately. That guilt can be made worse when investigations into the circumstances of their child's death reveal that they would have had a healthy baby if appropriate action had been taken.
Parents who have lost a child following a stillbirth can suffer from wide-ranging and serious psychological consequences. This can be made more difficult if they learn that the death of their much longed-for baby was avoidable.
All reports into stillbirth have highlighted the need to improve communication between parents and maternity professionals. Many mothers are aware of the normal patterns of movement and growth of their baby, and if there are concerns, these should be heard and investigated by the professionals.
Nothing is more devastating for a bereaved parent than the fear that something could have been done that might have changed the outcome.
A stillbirth is one of the most traumatic and devastating experiences a woman can go through and it can leave victims with ongoing problems, including depression and isolation.
When a stillbirth has been caused by the negligence of healthcare staff, women can lose faith in the medical profession and be unsure where to turn for expert support.
However, there are organisations that exist to help women and their families to cope and offer a helping hand at this difficult time. Run by individuals with first-hand experience of the devastation of stillbirth, their only motivation is to offer support, campaign for better care and promote the need for research.
The solicitors at JMW have helped many women to successfully challenge poor care that led to a stillbirth and we advise our clients to speak to these organisations in their time of need. Here is some information about their vital work:
Stillbirth and neonatal death charity (Sands)
Sands is a charity that has been helping women and their families come to terms with the death of their baby for 25 years and offers emotional support and practical help. Many of those who provide advice have lost a baby themselves, and so understand only too well the anguish it causes. Sands has made great strides in improving the care provided to parents immediately following a stillbirth, as it recognises its importance in helping them to cope long-term.
The Sands website is a valuable source of information to guide women and families through the many challenging stages they face following a stillbirth.
Sands operates a national helpline for anyone affected by a stillbirth, whether it has happened recently or many years ago. As well as helping parents whose baby has died, the helpline is open to any other family members who may have been affected. Callers can discuss their experience in confidence with a sympathetic ear and can also find out about local Sands groups and counselling services they can access.
The helpline is open from 9.30am to 5.30pm Monday to Friday, and also between 6pm and 10pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The number is 020 7436 5882.
Sands has a network of 90 local groups nationwide that offer support to families who have suffered a stillbirth in their own community. Call the helpline to find out what Sands services are available in your local area or visit http://www.uk-sands.org/support/sands-groups/find-your-nearest-group to check for local websites.
The Birth Trauma Association
The Birth Trauma Association (BTA) exists to help people who have been traumatised by childbirth and a stillbirth can be one reason for this trauma.
The organisation was set up by mothers whose aim is to help other women who have suffered a traumatic birth and are finding it difficult to cope. The BTA tackles three main areas; raising awareness of birth trauma, working to prevent it and supporting families in need.
Visit www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk where there is a wealth of information about birth trauma and how to cope, as well as the real-life experiences of women who have experienced it.
The BTA has a network of volunteers who have experienced a traumatic birth and can be contacted by email by anyone in need of support from someone who understands what they are going through. Visit http://www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/support to find out more.
As well as women, fathers and partners who have also been traumatised by a birth are a key target of the BTA's support and there is a dedicated page on their website at www.birthtraumaassociation.org.uk/fathers that contains real-life stories.
Don't delay seeking support
Anyone who is suffering with the impact of a stillbirth should seek help as soon as possible and many clients of JMW have found these organisations a huge source of support.
The advice and emotional support they provide can help women and their families to begin to cope with their devastation and the earlier this begins, the better the long-term outcome will be.
Stillbirth cases can be very complex and it is essential you have a solicitor highly experienced in the field of medical negligence law. These cases are often strongly contested and it takes the skill of a specialist solicitor to help you succeed in your case.
The team at JMW has dealt with many cases of this type and we pride ourselves on being able to get the right outcome by taking the right approach. Get in touch and speak to our friendly team today.