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Case Study

£160,000 damages for diabetic Mum suffering tragic stillbirth at Barnet Hospital

Helen Thompson recovered £160,000 damages for a 34-year-old woman with Type 1 diabetes whose baby was stillborn following mismanagement of diabetic ketoacidosis during her pregnancy.

Ms S had been an insulin dependent diabetic since she was 12 years old. She had previously given birth to a healthy daughter in June 2008.

When she became pregnant with her second daughter in March 2010, she was registered under the management of Chase Farm Hospital. During the pregnancy, Ms S often experienced vomiting and combined with not being able to eat properly at times, she found it very difficult to control her blood sugars and take her insulin. Ms S was admitted to hospital at around six-months pregnant because of her symptoms but was discharged once her condition stabilised.

Towards the end of October, Ms S again became very unwell with vomiting, abdominal pain and began to experience contractions. At around 35-weeks pregnant, she was readmitted to Chase Farm Hospital and diagnosed with early diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA). However, Ms S was under the impression that she was suffering from morning sickness and at no point did doctors advise her that she was suffering with diabetic ketoacidosis, a potentially life-threatening condition for pregnant women and unborn babies.  

Due to concerns about ongoing contractions and the possibility of Ms S delivering her baby prematurely, she was transferred to Barnet Hospital on 27 October 2010. Initially, her urine was due to be tested twice daily to monitor for diabetic ketoacidosis. But following a measurement at 2pm on the 27 October, hospital staff failed to carry out any further tests for three days while Ms S remained unwell in hospital.

On 30 October, Ms S requested a C section or to be induced, but her requests were refused and she was reassured that everything was fine.

The next day, Ms S was still unable to eat or drink properly as she continued to feel extremely nauseous. The baby was checked with scans and with a heartbeat monitor and Ms S was advised that the baby was fine. Ms S was discharged the same day without any further urine tests for ketones and without any advice to monitor her urine at home. She was given an appointment in the diabetic pregnancy clinic for a few days later.

While at home on 1 and 2 November, Ms S continued to feel nauseous and began vomiting again. Her condition deteriorated and she became extremely unwell and delirious. She was taken by ambulance to Barnet Hospital where she was admitted to the labour ward. Ms S was diagnosed as suffering with severe diabetic ketoacidosis.

An ultrasound scan was performed on Ms S's baby and the doctors sadly confirmed that there was no heartbeat. Ms S and her partner were devastated at the news. Ms S was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit because she was so unwell. On 4 November 2010, Ms S gave birth to her stillborn daughter.

As a result of the stillbirth, Ms S developed post-traumatic stress disorder with depression. She suffered nightmares, personality change and social withdrawal which, at the date of settlement, were ongoing. Her psychiatric illness caused her relationship to breakdown and caused her great difficulty in returning to work and maintaining employment.

Ms S instructed Fieldfisher to investigate the care that she had received at Barnet Hospital. Experts in the disciplines of Obstetrics and Psychiatry were instructed to comment on the case. The Obstetric expert was highly critical of the care provided. Despite this, the Trust refused to make an admission of liability and defended the claim in full for several years before agreeing to settle the case for £160,000 after proceedings had been served.

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