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Written on 15th February 2023 by Vanessa Wand

Boyes Turner’s birth injury claims specialists secured an admission of liability (fault), compensation and a formal apology from the hospital for the mother of a stillborn baby.

Our client was nearly seven weeks pregnant when she attended her booking appointment at the hospital. She had a past medical history of miscarriage and told the midwife that her family had a history of pre-eclampsia. She was assessed as low risk and suitable for routine midwifery-led care in pregnancy. She was not advised to take aspirin to reduce her risk of pre-eclampsia.

Owing to covid regulations, she had telephone consultations with the community midwife at just under 16 weeks and 24 weeks of pregnancy. She was next seen in person at the hospital’s antenatal clinic at 28 weeks of pregnancy. No concerns were noted at any of these appointments.

At 29 weeks of pregnancy, our client called the hospital’s maternity triage and told them that she had a brown coloured discharge and reduced fetal movements. On their advice, she attended the maternity day unit about an hour later. Her blood pressure and monitoring of the unborn baby’s (fetal) heart-rate and movements were found to be normal. She was discharged home and told to return if there were any further concerns. Her urine test results were subsequently found to be abnormal, indicating possible warning signs for pre-eclampsia but no action was taken by the maternity team to follow these up.  

At 32 weeks of pregnancy, our client experienced vaginal bleeding, uterine tightening and reduced fetal movements. She tried four times to contact maternity triage before she was finally able to speak to a midwife. She was advised to come to the labour ward or call an ambulance if she was bleeding heavily. Her sister took her in immediately and she was admitted to the labour ward. The midwife noted that her abdomen was tense. Urine tests showed raised levels of protein. The midwife was unable to ausculate (listen to) the fetal heart and asked for a consultant to attend. The consultant was unable to detect a fetal heartbeat on an ultrasound scan and intrauterine death was confirmed.

Soon afterwards, our client’s blood pressure was found to be low and she was noted to be pale, sweaty and feeling faint. An emergency caesarean section under general anaesthetic was ordered and her baby girl was delivered, stillborn. The cause of the intrauterine death was antepartum haemorrhage (vaginal bleeding), which progressed to a placental abruption (early separation of the placenta from the uterus or womb).

Making a claim results in admission of liability, apology and compensation

We helped our client make a medical negligence claim for compensation from the hospital. The hospital responded to the claim by admitting full liability (responsibility) for the intrauterine death, which they accepted was caused by negligent failure to follow up abnormal urine test results from our client’s attendance at 29 weeks of pregnancy.  

Correct treatment at that time would have involved review by an obstetrician (doctor). She would have been diagnosed with pre-eclampsia and her blood pressure, urine and measurements of symphysis-fundal height (indicating the size of the unborn baby)  would have been checked regularly. Increased monitoring would have revealed worsening pre-eclampsia with hypertension (high blood pressure). This diagnosis would have led to earlier caesarean section and the baby would have been born alive.  

After the stillbirth our client suffered a psychological injury, with symptoms of low and depressed mood, trouble sleeping and frequent nightmares. She became pregnant again but the unborn baby developed hydrops, leading to the need for a medically-indicated termination.  She was prescribed antidepressants but opted instead for counselling. Our expert psychiatrist diagnosed that she was suffering from an adjustment disorder, involving a mixed anxiety and depressive reaction with significant PTSD symptoms. She was able to return to full time employment.

The hospital offered to settle the claim for £10,000. We advised our client not to accept. After further negotiations, they increased their offer to £55,000, which our client accepted. The hospital also made a formal apology.

If you have suffered serious injury or bereavement as a result of medical negligence, or have been contacted by HSIB/HSSIB, MNSI or NHS Resolution after your hospital care, you can talk to one of our solicitors for advice about how to respond or make a claim for compensation by contacting us here.