Debby suffered a series of seven miscarriages between 1993 and 1999. She had one successful pregnancy ending in the birth of her son in 1992.
The present case concerned the pregnancy and stillbirth of her daughter on 12 December 2000.
Debby's pregnancy was uneventful, except that for much of the period Debby thought that she was going to have an elective caesarean section.
On 11 December 2000, Debby had a vaginal bleed at home and was admitted to hospital in the early hours. She was not seen by a consultant obstetrician, but the fetus was monitored and the decision made to adopt a “wait and see” approach.
Accordingly, Debby was admitted to the antenatal ward. Debby was not seen or reviewed by a midwife or doctor until about 6pm the following night.
At 2am on 12 December, Debby had a further vaginal bleed. On further examination, it was discovered that the fetal heart had stopped.
Intrauterine death was diagnosed and Debby was advised to have a vaginal delivery.
At about 9.30am hours, Debby was seen for the first time by her treating consultant who was obviously shocked at what had happened. She decided to induce labour firstly with prostin, then artificial rupture of the membranes and finally syntocinon.
At 10pm, further vaginal bleeding was noted. On examination, Debby was tachypnoeic and it was obvious that her uterus had ruptured and that she was in shock. An emergency Caesarean section was undertaken at 11pm.
A baby girl was stillborn at 11.10pm. Debby was very unwell in the post-operative period and understandably very distressed at the loss of her child.
Although the conduct of the labour could be criticised on moral grounds very easily, it was extremely difficult to establish breach of duty of care given that many doctors at the relevant stages would have adopted a similar approach.
Proceedings were issued on Debby’s behalf in November 2003 and the action was fixed for trial for October 2004.
Following a difficult meeting between the experts, the matter was finally settled in September by Paul McNeil in the sum of £25,000.
The case was funded by Legal Aid.
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