Midwife fails to test jaundiced baby causing significant brain damage

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Midwife fails to test jaundiced baby causing significant brain damage

Ted, five 

Ted suffered a significant brain injury called kernicterus after community midwives failed to take a blood test when he developed jaundice as a newborn. Due to Ted’s young age, it is currently unclear what the extent of his disabilities will be, however his parents have assurance that these will be fully supported financially after a successful case by Steven Brown, a specialist kernicterus solicitor at JMW. 

Newborn jaundice

Ted was born a week before his due date in a good condition and his mother Kath’s plan was to breastfeed exclusively. Two days after Ted’s birth he and Kath were discharged home and by this time Kath noticed Ted was slightly jaundiced.

The following afternoon, Kath and Ted were visited by a community midwife who recorded in her notes that Ted was slightly jaundiced. 

Kath and Ted received a further visit from the same community midwife two days later. The midwife again recorded the jaundice in her notes but negligently did not take a blood test to measure how much bilirubin was in Ted’s blood (the substance that causes yellowing of the skin and eyeballs), despite taking bloods for something else. 

Three days later the midwife returned and again no action was taken to test and treat the jaundice, despite the risk of significant injury to Ted.

Treatment delayed  

Kath became increasingly concerned about Ted. His jaundice was not improving and his feeding had gone downhill. On two consecutive days she contacted the birthing unit at the maternity hospital to make them aware of these symptoms and her concerns about Ted. On both occasions she was reassured that he was fine and no review of Ted by midwives or doctors was arranged.

Kath remained very concerned and called the on-call midwife, telling her that Ted was also sleepier than he had been previously. The midwife advised Kath to keep an eye on Ted overnight and call back tomorrow if she was still concerned. 

After Kath called NHS 111 the following day, a midwife visit was arranged. The midwife who attended found Ted to be very jaundiced, lethargic and not taking feeds. She called an ambulance and Ted was taken to hospital.

At hospital a blood test to check on Ted’s bilirubin level was taken and this was found to be extremely high. Ted was taken to the neonatal intensive care unit for a blood transfusion and his soaring bilirubin levels were eventually brought under control. However an MRI scan later revealed that the bilirubin has crossed the blood brain barrier and had caused significant damage to Ted’s brain called kernicterus. 

Successful kernicterus case

Ted’s parents were distraught that he had suffered such an appalling injury due to jaundice and treatment having only been started when it was too late to prevent brain damage. The jaundice had been noticed by the midwife at an early stage and Kath has raised the alarm about his worsening condition, to no avail. 

Ted’s family contacted JMW for advice due to our extensive experience in similar cases. Steven Brown, a partner in the clinical negligence team, took on Ted’s case and carried out an extensive investigation into the care he received. After gathering independent evidence from medical experts in the relevant fields that showed that Ted’s brain damage was preventable with earlier testing and treatment. 

The hospital trust initially denied liability, but Steven pushed on with the case until the trust accepted that Ted should have been tested at an earlier stage. 

Nothing can turn back the clock but this has paved the way for significant compensation to be negotiated by Steven to provide Ted with the best possible quality of life and have financial security. 

There was a shocking lack of awareness in this case of the risks that jaundice can pose to newborn babies and the need for early testing and treatment. Ted and his family will have to live with the lifelong consequences of this but I am pleased to have helped them to win their case so that financial aspects of Ted’s complex needs can be taken care of.

Steven Brown, a specialist kernicterus solicitor at JMW who acts for Ted

Get in touch

JMW Solicitors LLP is a leading Manchester law firm and offers a broad range of legal services to both commercial and private clients. To speak to someone please use our online enquiry form or call us on 0345 872 6666.

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