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Written by Susan Brown

Boyes Turner’s specialist cerebral palsy solicitors have secured a liability settlement for a teenager with dystonic cerebral palsy arising from acute, profound asphyxia immediately before birth.

Our client’s mother attended hospital towards the end of her pregnancy as she was experiencing painful, short, regular contractions. A CTG trace of the fetal heart-rate was normal. She was sent  home where her waters broke the next evening. She returned to hospital and it was noted that her membranes had ruptured, clear liquor was draining and an admission CTG trace was normal.

Our client’s mother started experiencing expulsive contractions in the early hours of the following day. The midwife recorded fetal heart-rate decelerations in response to contractions but having noted this concern she then failed to monitor the fetal heart-rate continuously by fetal scalp electrode attached to a CTG monitor. If she had acted correctly, the results of the CTG trace would have shown the need for urgent delivery. A competent midwife would have called the obstetrician who would have carried out an urgent instrumental delivery unless vaginal birth had taken place by the time the doctor arrived. Boyes Turner’s medical experts advised that if correct care had been given our client would have been born 11 minutes earlier.  He would then have avoided the injury.

At birth our client was unresponsive, floppy and pale and his heart-rate was dangerously low. His blood tests showed that he was acidotic – an indicator that he had recently suffered lack of oxygen. He needed ventilation and anticonvulsants and remained on oxygen in the special care baby unit. He was then moved to the neonatal unit of another hospital. Later, he underwent MRI scans which indicated that he had suffered a brain injury consistent with acute profound asphyxia at term. He has dystonic cerebral palsy. He will require life-long care.  

Whilst the defendant NHS hospital accepted that the midwife was negligent for not monitoring the baby’s heart-rate in the presence of early decelerations, they denied that the baby would have been born without permanent injury if competent monitoring had taken place.

Boyes Turner’s solicitors fought the contested claim supported by expert evidence which set out how competent care would have affected the sequence and timing of events. Our experts advised that correct medical care would have left the claimant undamaged. The course of events during the last 10 minutes leading up to delivery was critical because a claimant can only be compensated for injury which is proven to have been caused by negligence. The defendant finally offered to settle the claim at 90% of its full value as the case proceeded towards trial.

Boyes Turner now await the court’s approval of the settlement. Judgment on liability will then be entered. An interim payment will be requested to meet the claimant’s urgent needs whilst we value the full extent of the claim.