Case Studies

Stillbirth and the loss of a newborn baby


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Failure to diagnose placental abruption

Our client, Jane, arrived at hospital in labour and with a severe, sharp pain in her abdomen. She had a previous caesarean section due to pre-term labour. Although she was in labour, she only had limited contractions. Jane was reviewed by a midwife who did not appreciate the significance of the abdominal pain. An ultrasound scan was eventually performed to look for the source of the pain and our client was told she was to have a caesarean section. When she was ultimately transferred to theatre, the medics involved appreciated that this was actually a medical emergency and acted swiftly to deliver baby Dylan, but tragically he was stillborn and did not respond to resuscitation.

Our investigation identified that our client was at a heightened risk of placental abruption due to her previous pre-term caesarean section, (meaning that the scar was higher up on her uterus than it would otherwise have been). On arrival at hospital with severe abdominal pain, the midwife should have realised this was a medical emergency and immediately called the doctor to review her, with a caesarean section being performed urgently. Had this happened, Dylan would have survived.

We obtained an admission of liability and an award of damages for Jane. She and her husband both received compensation for the psychiatric injuries they had suffered, along with the other losses incurred, and damages to compensate them for the distress and trauma associated with losing their baby.

Inadequate monitoring during labour

Our client, Clare, went into natural labour and attended hospital after her waters broke. On arrival, the midwife noticed meconium in her waters, which can be a sign that the baby is struggling. A decision was made to undertake continuous monitoring of the baby during labour by the use of a cardio tachograph machine (CTG). This machine tracks the baby’s heartbeat to look for any signs of distress. The midwife in charge of Clare’s care had difficulty identifying the baby’s heartbeat and struggled to read the recording from the CTG but she allowed the labour to progress without seeking any help. Right up until birth, the baby’s heartbeat was being written down as present. Baby Emily was born critically ill; she was not breathing and it took over 30 minutes to resuscitate her. Her father witnessed this vigorous resuscitation. Sadly Emily passed away within the next 24 hours.

Our investigation identified that the midwife should have called for a member of the obstetric team to review Emily much earlier on during the labour, due to the difficulties in recording her heartbeat and the suggestion, from the recording available, that the baby was in distress. Had this review been carried out, Emily would have been delivered as an emergency and probably would have survived.

We secured an admission of liability for Clare and her husband and they both received compensation for their psychiatric injuries suffered as a result of losing their child. In addition, we recovered the cost of private care for future pregnancies and treatment costs for their continued recovery from the psychiatric injuries sustained.

We also secured a detailed apology from the trust for the failures in the care resulting in Emily’s death and confirmation of the process changes that had been put in place to avoid a recurrence of this tragic event.


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Penningtons Manches LLP

Penningtons Manches LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority. San Francisco is an associated office.

Penningtons Manches LLP