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Sunday, 26 October 2014

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Hospitals trust admits liability for mum's death

A woman who died after giving birth at Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital was a victim of medical negligence, a court has heard.

West Cumberland Hospital photo
West Cumberland Hospital

The High Court in London heard harrowing details of the tragedy that engulfed the woman and her family after she was admitted for a routine induced birth.

The details came to light as the woman’s partner attempted to sue North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the hospital.

The man brought the legal action on behalf of his son, who was starved of oxygen during the delivery in December 2002 and was left with a disabling brain injury.

After a three-day hearing last month, Mr Justice Green ruled that the boy’s brain injury had not been the result of negligence.

But the proceedings revealed for the first time how the trust have admitted the child’s mother died as a result of “negligent care” after her son was born.

“For the father, what should have been the joy of a new birth turned into an unmitigated catastrophe,” said the judge in his ruling.

The woman, in her early 40s, was admitted to the hospital on December 9, 2002, for an induced labour.

At 10.50am the woman was given a 3mg dose of Prostin – a drug for inducing labour. A midwife gave her a second dose several hours later.

By 12.45am the next morning, the woman was “very distressed” by the pain and her partner was phoned and told to come to the hospital.

The baby was born shortly after 2am by forceps, dangerously starved of oxygen.

In his evidence, the child’s father said he arrived at 1.15am to find his partner was in extreme pain, bewildered, frightened and barely able to speak.

She was taken back to her room but collapsed, having had a cardiac arrest.

Surgeons operated to stem internal bleeding but over the next few days her condition deteriorated.

The man said: “On the Saturday afternoon, when I arrived at hospital, I was met by the anaesthetist who told me, that the brain stem death tests had been carried out; that there were no signs of life and that no medication would help.

“He asked me, quite brusquely, when I wanted the life support machine turned off."

It later emerged that the mother suffered a ruptured uterus, an extremely rare side-effect of Prostin.

In his ruling, Mr Justice Green said both sides in the case accepted negligent care caused the mother’s death. An independent review found medical staff failed to appreciate the gravity of the mother’s medical emergency.

A midwife’s decision to administer a second dose of Prostin turned out to be “catastrophic” but that decision was “within the bounds of reasonable judgement,” concluded the judge.

The woman’s son – now a pupil at a special school – was described by the father as “bright and delightful”.

It is not known whether the woman’s family have been compensated for the failings in her treatment. The trust declined to comment.

The judge imposed an order which protects the identities of father and son.

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