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Arti Shah comments on the basic errors that caused the loss of a baby's life in Australia

Arti Shah
13/09/2016
A couple of days after writing about my settlement of a tragic case of a two-day old baby who died following midwifery and obstetric errors, I read about a devastating mix-up at a Sydney hospital affecting three new-born babies, one of whom has died.

The babies born at Bankstown Lidcombe hospital all needed oxygen to be administered just after birth.  Unfortunately, they were mistakenly given nitrous oxide - laughing gas - instead. One of the mothers, Sonya Ghanem, told a reporter that she came around from a general anaesthetic after an emergency Caesarean section to be told her baby boy was dead. She describes coming out of hospital holding a capsule rather than bringing home a new-born.

Amelia Khan, another of the babies affected, was also born by Caesarean section and needed oxygen. The mix-up has left her with permanent brain damage, but her parents were only told what happened several weeks later. She now suffers constant seizures and has to be fed through a tube.

These terrible stories remind me of my colleague Edwina Rawson's case, acting for Maisha Najeeb.  At the time of her treatment, Maisha was 10 years old, with the dream of becoming a doctor. Maisha suffered a rare medical condition known as arterial venous malformation (AVM), which can result in bleeds, but was able to lead a normal life. She periodically underwent embolisation treatment, where glue is injected to block the bleeding blood vessels, followed by an injection of dye to check the blood flow. Tragically, during one such procedure, the syringes containing the glue and dye were not labelled. Glue, instead of dye, was injected into an artery. Maisha immediately suffered permanent brain damage and will now need daily care for life. Edwina negotiated settlement to secure damages for her future.

In the Australian cases, the State Government has released an interim report that shows that both the hospital and the company that installed the gas lines in the birthing suite were potentially to blame. The company responsible for the gas lines issued a statement to say that incorrect labels on the gas pipelines were attached before their installation at the hospital.  A full investigation and Coroner's Inquest is due to take place, and a claim for compensation is being explored.

Three family's lives have been devastated beyond belief because basic steps such as labelling equipment, particularly vital in a hospital setting, was not taken seriously. Simple steps could have easily avoided this latest tragedy. I sincerely hope that the investigation and Inquest offer the families much-needed answers and help them in some small way to come to terms with what has happened to their children.You can read more on the Australian cases below:

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