WARNING: This story talks about an Aboriginal person who has died
We acted for an Indigenous woman from western NSW –a woman of the Ngemba, Ualarai, Murrawarri and Wailwan people – who tragically lost her child at 32 weeks pregnancy.
Our client had presented to the nearby small public hospital in remote NSW with severe lower abdominal pain – which she described as different to labour pain – and vomiting.
She did not have any back pain or blood loss but her uterus was very tender on palpation. The hospital was unable to manage her care so our client was transferred by air ambulance to a maternity hospital in Sydney. At that hospital, our client was seen by a nurse and noted to be in distress from the pain. A CTG trace showed a rapid foetal heart rate. She was then seen by a resident who recorded her history and clinical findings. Apart from the suprapubic pain and tenderness the uterus was not tense. The resident discussed our client’s situation with a Registrar who did not see her but prescribed steroids to mature the baby’s lungs in case of premature delivery.
Our client’s pain continued and a preliminary diagnosis of urinary tract infection was made by the registrar who had eventually seen her at 0730. There was no consideration given to undertaking an ultrasound examination at this time. Later that evening, our client was seen by a more senior registrar who specifically recorded there was no evidence of accidental antepartum haemorrhage. Again a UTI was diagnosed. Ultrasound was deferred to the following day.
The following morning, nurses were unable to hear the foetal heart. At 12:00pm the senior Registrar discussed our client’s situation with the obstetric consultant who, at 2:00pm, examined her and recorded that the history was suggestive of placental abruption and that ultrasound examination confirmed foetal death in utero.
We successfully resolved our client’s case arguing that both the rural and city hospital had failed to follow all necessary and clinically appropriate procedures for antenatal monitoring in accordance with the guidelines of the Society of Obstetric Medicine of Australia and New Zealand. Our client had developed complex bereavement disorder, avoidance behaviour and had persistent intrusive thoughts. Her mood was disturbed, she developed anxiety and had social phobia. Her grief made it difficult to work.
We have conducted many cases of negligence arising from stillbirth pregnancy. Our clients have reported feeling vindicated and the process of resolution and holding the health providers to account cathartic.
How can we help?
If you are looking for information or help following a stillbirth or neonatal death, we can help you navigate the process. Our team can assist you by providing expert advice and legal support regarding your options. Contact us today.