We acted for a 34-year-old woman who suffered significant birth trauma injuries during the delivery of her second baby. Our client had had a very difficult delivery with her first pregnancy and had been advised that any future babies should be delivered by caesarean section (“c-section”).
Early in our client’s second pregnancy, a c-section was scheduled. However, our client went into early labour and presented to her nearest hospital. She informed the treating obstetrician and midwives there that an elective c-section had been planned. The obstetric staff noted this arrangement but – sadly – the client was left in active labour for six hours before being taken to theatre. There she was told that labour had progressed too far and the baby’s head too far down into the pelvis to deliver any other way than by forceps delivery. A junior obstetric registrar delivered the baby having had minimal experience using forceps. The evidence in the case was that this member of staff needed to be guided through the procedure.
There were several issues that were central to the case in negligence which were argued to have led to our client’s birth injuries: the c-section had not been performed in a reasonable time and that had the delivery been effected in a timely way, the injuries would not have occurred. It was also argued that no consent had been obtained to the forceps delivery – the material risks not having been obtained, the forceps delivery was performed in a technically incompetent manner and there was inadequate supervision of the junior obstetric registrar. Our client suffered extensive injuries during the birth which included a vaginal tear, perineal tear, lateral vaginal tear, labial tear, sphincter tear, levator anii muscle avulsion and other injuries to surrounding tissue and nerves.
Evidence obtained from an independent practising obstetrician and gynaecologist was to the effect that the management of our client’s labour did not comply with accepted standards of clinical practice and that there was no justifiable reason for failing to perform a caesarean in a timely manner. Our client had spent 6 hours waiting for an operating theatre and there was further delay upon her arrival at theatre. Further, our expert also considered that our client’s injuries would have been avoided had the c-section been performed or – in the alternative – an episiotomy done avoiding the tears and/or had the forceps delivery been performed by an experienced obstetrician.
We were able to mediate a favourable outcome for our client who received compensation for her injuries including the cost of care and treatment.