Mother whose baby was left permanently disabled due to negligence of midwifery staff awarded £725,000

A mother whose baby was left with a permanent disability as a result of the way he was delivered by midwifery staff has been awarded £725,000 damages.

The woman, who has not been named, raised an action against Lanarkshire Acute Hospitals NHS Trust following the birth of her second child at Law Hospital’s maternity unit in July 1999.

A judge in the Court of Session ruled that the baby “C” suffered the injuries as a result of the “negligence” of the defenders.

Lady Rae heard that the pursuer “CD”, a registered nurse by profession, claimed the actions of Sister Rosemary Murphy caused her son to sustain a serious shoulder injury, but the defenders denied liability.

Prior to the commencement of the second stage of labour the pursuer was asked if a student midwife could undertake the delivery of the baby.

Accompanying the student was Sister Murphy and there was also another student nurse present in the room.

The court was told that when the baby’s head emerged the pursuer thought that the student midwife looked “panicked” and asked what she should do as the cord was round the baby’s neck.

The woman then became aware of Sister Murphy trying to deliver the baby and saw her stand back “apparently in thought”.

Sister Murphy then took a step forward and pulled the baby out.

She described the pull as “pretty violent” and that Sister Murphy looked as if she was taking part in a “tug of war”.

No special manoeuvres to re-position the pursuer after the baby’s head was delivered were untaken.

The pursuer described the atmosphere in the delivery room as “tense”, but said she was unaware of any major problem as there was “little communication”.

After the birth, a mdwife told the pursuer that the child had been removed to a special care unit because he was “a bit cold”.

The parents were not told until later that the baby boy had been injured but were advised that he would recover.

Subsequently they were told that he had a “brachial plexus injury” to his shoulder, although they were not given any indication that he would suffer any long term health problems.

The pursuer was not told until later that the child was suffering from “right sided Erb’s palsy”, but the mother required to source information on the internet regarding the condition.

Senior counsel for the pursuer claimed that Sister Murphy, an employee of the defenders, had a “duty to exercise the skill and care of an ordinarily competent midwife” acting with ordinary skill and care, but she failed to exercise those duties.

Lady Rae explained that there appeared to be “two possible explanations” for the injury to the baby.

The first was as a result of “excessive traction” in the face of shoulder dystocia.

The alternative explanation was that the large baby was a “tight fit” in his mother’s pelvis and his injury could well have been caused in the course of birth as a result of the natural propulsive forces of birth, meaning “no fault” could be laid at the door of any birth attendant.

However, the judge held that on the facts there was nothing on the evidence to support the alternative explanation for the baby’s injury and therefore ruled that the defenders were negligent.

In a written opinion, Lady Rae said: “I am satisfied that in course of his birth, C suffered a severe brachial plexus injury to his right side as a result of the negligence of the defenders’ employee, Sister Rosemary Murphy and for whom the defenders are responsible.

“Sister Murphy failed to recognise an obstetric emergency after the student midwife had been unable to deliver the body of C after delivery of his head; she failed to summon help in accordance with the protocol in existence as at July 1999; she failed to recognise or diagnose the existence of shoulder dystocia before delivering the head of C or if she did recognise the condition in time she failed to follow hospital protocol and implement the required ancillary manoeuvres to deal with such an obstetric emergency; further she used excessive traction to deliver the body of C.

“As a result of these failures C was born with a severe brachial plexus injury to his right shoulder. Accordingly I shall sustain the pursuer’s pleas in law to the extent of the sum agreed as quantum in this case, namely £725,000 and subject to the addition of interest at the rate of 4% per annum from 30 January 2015 to the date of decree.”

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