The personal cost of stillbirth

When Maria* and Liam* left the hospital after the stillbirth of their baby, they were, naturally, devastated.  According to NHS figures, more than 3,600 stillbirths occur in the UK every year. Around half are linked to complications with functioning of the placenta or happen because of birth defects. Sadly, most are unavoidable.  

However, for Maria and Liam, problems had occurred during the delivery, leaving them certain that something had gone wrong that shouldn’t have. The CTG showed that the baby was in distress, but this went unnoticed for at least an hour. Instead of arranging a funeral, they should have been bringing home a newborn.  Maria suffered adjustment disorder and depression as a result and a Psychiatrist recommended therapy. Liam’s mental health also suffered and he needed to take time off work as a self-employed builder.

Inadequate monitoring has been cited as one of the main contributory factors in preventable stillbirths, neo-natal deaths and brain injuries by the Royal College of Obstetricians in their report Each Baby Counts, which reviewed over 700 incidents in-depth.

 

Compensation is not a windfall

Maria and Liam decided to make a medical negligence claim against Queen’s Hospital in Romford. The hospital admitted liability and Tami Frankel, Partner at Gadsby Wicks Solicitors negotiated a settlement for them of £25,000.

No amount of money can compensate for the loss of a child and £25,000 is certainly not a windfall. In fact, only £13,000 of figure was for the bereavement itself. The rest included:

  • the costs of unused nursery equipment and baby clothes – which, understandably, Maria and Liam could not bear to use again
  • an award for Maria’s adjustment disorder and depression
  • loss of salary for time taken off work
  • the cost of therapy for Maria recommended by the Psychiatrist

 

Lack of mental health support

Whilst the pain of losing their baby through medical negligence will last a lifetime for both parents, Liam was unable to claim any compensation for the impact on his own mental health or for loss of earnings as, in most cases, the law doesn’t allow the father to make a claim.

“Accessing NHS mental health treatment is notoriously difficult and in the private sector, the costs can be prohibitive for many people,” said medical negligence specialist Tami Frankel.  “A mishandled birth affects both the parents, yet the law only supports mothers in this respect. This meant we were only able to ask for compensation for the subsequent psychological impact on Maria. There should be more recognition, both from the law and the medical profession, of how losing a baby through medical negligence impacts on the whole family, especially fathers.”

 

Adding insult to injury

That the hospital admitted liability was, of course, welcome. However, the subsequent letter of apology gave the wrong date of birth, leaving Maria and Liam feeling as though they had been sent a standard letter, without even enough concern to double check it.

“Understandably, the parents felt as though they had been ‘processed’ by a customer complaints department,” said Tami. “Not only had the hospital’s negligence led to the stillbirth of their baby, but they couldn’t even make sure that the family’s personal details were correct in their apology.  

“Sadly, this attitude is something we come across regularly. Because we deal personally with every client through every step of their claim, we understand the real costs to families of both the results of the negligence that they have suffered, and the way they are treated afterwards. People who have been injured because of medical mistakes need to have both their physical and mental health needs supported.”

* Maria and Liam are pseudonyms to protect the privacy of the parents, who wish to remain anonymous.

 

For over twenty years, Gadsby Wicks have achieved successful outcomes for families who have suffered through medical negligence, including those whose babies have been injured at birth. See here for a selection of our case studies

If you – or someone you love – have experienced a birth injury and you think it was caused by a medical error, our expert lawyers can help. Please call us in confidence on 0800 321 3112 or email us here to make an enquiry.

Posted 30th June 2017 | Posted in Birth Injury,Birth Injury to babies,Neo-natal death and stillbirth

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