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Written on 10th January 2023 by Julie Marsh

Boyes Turner’s birth injury claims lawyers secured a £120,000 compensation settlement for a mother who was left with significant disability from faecal incontinence after suffering a severe tear during a vaginal forceps delivery.

Our client had a previous medical history of surgical treatment for anal fistulas. She suffered very occasional, faecal incontinence which she managed without any significant impact on her life.

During her pregnancy with her first child she raised her concerns with her consultant obstetrician about having a vaginal delivery, given her past medical history, and asked whether she should have a caesarean section.  The consultant requested information relating to her previous surgical care and any anal sphincter damage from the surgeon who had managed that care at the defendant hospital trust. The surgeon responded saying that they did not think the patient had sustained any major damage to her sphincters.  On that basis, our client’s pregnancy was allowed to proceed to a vaginal birth. During the delivery, which was carried out by forceps,  our client suffered a vaginal tear which was sutured immediately after the birth.  

Following the birth, our client began to experience a worsening of her faecal incontinence.  At first she thought these symptoms would improve but when they persisted she assumed that they were to be expected, given her medical history and forceps delivery. She was treated for post-natal depression, but for many years tried to cope with her incontinence symptoms at work and at home. Finally, she sought help from her GP after she experienced an episode of faecal incontinence in public.  Her GP referred her to a colorectal surgeon who investigated her internal and external anal sphincter injuries and questioned whether they arose from the management of her daughter’s birth.

Making a claim for compensation

We pursued a claim against the hospital trust whose surgeon had negligently reassured our client’s consultant obstetrician that there was no major damage to her anal sphincters without advising that the sphincters had not been properly investigated or that an endoanal scan was needed before any decision could be made about the best way for our client to give birth.  Our experts believed that correct advice would have led to further investigations which would have revealed existing damage to our client’s internal anal sphincter. The consultant obstetrician would have recommended or offered our client a caesarean section, which she would have accepted. This would have avoided the further anal sphincter injuries which arose from the tear during the vaginal forceps birth and the significant increase in our client’s faecal incontinence and related disability.

The hospital trust denied liability, disputing that their surgeon’s advice was negligent or that it caused our client’s ongoing incontinence and disability. They also raised a limitation defence which challenged our client’s right to bring the claim nearly nine years after the birth. However, they accepted our invitation to discuss the claim with us at a mediation during which we overcame these significant difficulties, resulting in a £120,000 compensation settlement.

Our client now has significant disability from faecal incontinence, affecting her personal hygiene, intimacy with her husband, ability to complete her family, and her ability to leave the house, travel or socialise. She also suffered a psychological injury.  Her compensation enables her to make necessary adaptations to her home, including a downstairs toilet, and will pay for private medical treatment which she has been unable to obtain from the NHS.

If you have suffered serious injury or disability as a result of medical negligence, or have been contacted by NHS Resolution, HSIB, HSSIB or MNSI, you can seek advice from one of our experienced solicitors, free and confidentially, by contacting us here.