The parents and grandmother of a child instructed us in a claim for negligence for mental harm caused by the mismanagement of vaginal breech birth which resulted in the neonatal death of their baby at just seven days old.
The parents had planned to have their baby at a nearby hospital on the NSW mid north coast. Late in the pregnancy it became apparent that the baby was in a breech position. They were told that the local hospital they had chosen was not equipped to deal with a breech baby for a first-time mother and were referred to the John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle for advice.
The mother was advised that she could attempt a vaginal delivery at John Hunter Hospital, but she would need to be in Newcastle for some weeks prior to the birth. This was not possible due to work and other commitments. Instead, the parents decided to go ahead with a caesarean section birth at their local hospital – the safest means of delivery given that the baby was in the breech position.
The mother consulted an obstetrician in her local town to organise the planned caesarean section. She was advised by the obstetrician that he could oversee a vaginal breech birth and did not see the necessity for a caesarean section. At a subsequent attendance, the obstetrician recommended that any trial vaginal breech birth not exceed four hours.
A traumatic birth
The parents attended the labour ward at 8:00am and the mother’s waters were broken at 9:30am. Between 1:50pm and 3:25pm the cardiotocography (CTG) became concerning, then pathological. There was a consistent pattern of decelerations which were not typical. By this time the mother was very distressed.
The expert engaged by us was of the view that the labour was mismanaged. Specifically, the CTG indicated that the baby was likely to be hypoxic and acidaemic. With delivery not imminent and the CTG becoming distinctly worse, delivery by urgent caesarean section was indicated. There was a strong indication to discontinue the Syntocinon infusion and notify the obstetrician to arrange for an urgent caesarean section. Unfortunately, this did not occur until later and the baby was born at 3:47pm by emergency caesarean section.
At 5.50pm, it was noted that the baby had unresponsive pupils, increased tone and seizure-like movements. The child and mother were transferred by air to John Hunter Hospital, where the baby was treated in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). An MRI on 23 January 2014 showed an ischaemic injury to the brain’s basal ganglia – stage 3 hypoxic brain injury. The baby subsequently developed a pulmonary haemorrhage and died at seven days of age. An autopsy revealed hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy.
Our clients endured a severely traumatic event culminating in the death of their baby. They were left with psychological injuries and the consequences continued to impact them and cause daily suffering. We were able to help our clients successfully resolve their claim.
If you or a loved one has experienced injuries as a result of a neonatal death or birth trauma, our caring, expert female lawyers can advocate for you and help you to explore the possibility of a negligence claim and to seek justice. Please talk to us about the options available to you.