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The pain of losing a child lasts way beyond a court case

Arti Shah
09/09/2016
In a heart-rending blog this week on the Huffington Post, MP Will Quince writes from terrible personal experience about the pain of losing a stillborn baby at full term. The tragedy happened to him and his wife in October 2014 and I have no doubt it still impacts their lives every single day.

Two years on, Mr Quince has petitioned Parliament for a change in the law to allow parents who have suffered the loss of a child to be granted two weeks paid leave, at the same rate as maternity leave.

Currently, there is no statutory right to compassionate or bereavement leave, although you'd be hard pushed to find an organisation that does not allow staff suffering the loss of a baby at least some time off during the worst of times.

Quince reports that a Government e-petition calling for bereavement leave for parents has more than 25,000 signatures, and a change.org petition more than 165,000 signatures. The campaign also has the support of organisations such as Child Bereavement UK and The Lullaby Trust, charities that provide considerable support to bereaved families.

As a lawyer representing parents who have lost children in similar circumstances, I appreciate not only how long the pain lasts but also what a tiny part the successful settlement of a case plays in the healing process. The case might end, but the pain continues.

I have recently settled a case on behalf of the parents of Bobby Goddard, who tragically died two days after he was born by emergency Caesarean section. The Coroner at the Inquest in June 2014 found that failings in both midwifery and obstetric care contributed to Bobby's death. While the Trust made some admissions of liability, it has taken a further two years to reach settlement. This finally allows the family some closure, but their pain continues regardless.

I was instructed by Ian and Kate shortly after Bobby died and I will never forget the first telephone conversation I had with them. Their grief was all consuming and, at times, I was at a loss what to say – no words could comfort them and nothing would bring Bobby back. Hearing their story, I was deeply saddened to realise the multiple missed opportunities that could so easily have avoided Bobby's death, and which seemed so obvious. I was determined to get some answers for them.

It's been a long road since that first conversation and last month I was finally able to settle a claim on behalf of Bobby and his family. In the course of the settlement, each time we had to revisit the circumstances surrounding their baby's death, Ian and Kate had to relive that 36 hours of tragedy. Tiny details stuck in their minds, so personal and raw, which changed their lives forever. In an attempt to get some relief, they relocated to a new city, unable to bear the local reminders of what had happened.

Nothing can bring Bobby back, but, from the outset, his family have focused on trying to prevent something similar from ever happening to anyone else. My hope is that in a case that is representative of much wider issues in health care, some lessons have been learnt.

Just recently, I have been instructed in a case where there have been similar failings, albeit at a different hospital. I will shortly be attending another Inquest into the death of a baby and will have to listen to another family trying to articulate their avoidable loss.

Most of us can come nowhere near imagining what it is like to lose a child. Let's hope Will Quince's petition is successful. Any statutory change that can offer anything to numb the pain should be supported to the last.  As a society, it seems the very least we can do.

Read the full Huffington Post article here.

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