In a truly devastating circumstances, a husband and wife have successfully sued a Canberra Hospital and Obstetrician in negligence after suffering psychological injuries following the stillbirth of their child.[1]

 

Facts

The Plaintiff was originally pregnant with twins, but by 11 weeks was pregnant with one foetus. The Plaintiff and her husband attended frequent antenatal appointments and check-ups with her midwife and obstetrician during the pregnancy and were assured that the baby was healthy, despite being considered full term.

With great persistence, convincing and urgency, the plaintiff managed to convince their obstetrician to induce her at 40.5 weeks. On 13 January 2011, the plaintiff attended Calvary Private Hospital with her husband and was induced with frequent monitoring by a midwife through a cardiotocograph and a screen depicting both KS’s heart rate and the foetal heart rate for any abnormalities. However hospital records show that abnormalities began to commence at 4:58pm, lasting for 7 minutes returning the foetus heart rate at 160bpm. At 5:08pm and 5:11pm there was further episodes of bradycardia (abnormal slowness of the baby’s pulse). At 5:40pm there was another episode of bradycardia that lasted for six minutes. Unfortunately, what transpired is that the midwife did not adequately monitor these tests and did not urgently report these tests to the obstetrician. An urgent caesarean was ordered at 6pm but the baby was unfortunately a stillborn at 7:00pm.

 

Issues

The plaintiff and her husband claimed that the hospital was negligent in not recognising the prolonged bradycardia. The Court accepted evidence from the experts that it was more likely than not that if the midwife acted promptly the baby would not have been still born. Similarly, His Honour Burns J found that the obstetrician failed to advise the Plaintiff of the higher risks of still births, failed to arrange an urgent caesarean and his participation in other non-urgent tasks at the hospital resulted in a very serious departure from his duty of care. Experts found that had the obstetrician properly attended to the plaintiff’s cardiotocograph, he would have realised the urgent need to operate and there was a higher chance that the baby would not be stillborn.

 

Decision

His Honour Burns J of the Supreme Court of ACT found both Defendants were at fault apportioning liability 30% to Calvary Private Hospital and 70% to the Obstetrician.

This loss caused significant psychological harm to both the plaintiff and her husband. Both were awarded pain and suffering damages for the psychological injury they endured as a result of the negligence of the Hospital and the Obstetrician. The wife was awarded a sum of $669,518.15, plus an allowance for legal costs and the husband was awarded the sum of $220,373 on the same basis

The loss of a baby to stillbirth or neonatal death is truly devastating. Any parent would have questions in a scenario like this, but if it becomes apparent that your child was the victim of negligent medical treatment, finding out what went wrong will be vital.

The impact of losing a baby can be far reaching and often impact relationships, work, and your mental well-being. Physical injuries to the mother can also have long lasting consequences. We understand that a  stillbirth or neonatal death claim isn’t about the money. It’s about getting answers and helping you overcome the devastating effects of neonatal death negligence.

 

Please see below case summary of KS & XT v Calvary Health Care ACT & Dr Foote [2018] ACTSC 84.

[1] KS & XT v Calvary Health Care ACT & Dr Foote [2018] ACTSC 84.