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£11.5m Compensation Payout for Oxygen-Deprived Baby Resulting From an Umbilical Cord Prolapse

£11.5m Compensation Payout for Oxygen-Deprived Baby Resulting From an Umbilical Cord Prolapse

Umbilical cord condition

A boy has been awarded a compensation package worth millions following failures by medical staff during his birth. The boy – who is now five years old – would have been “unharmed” had he been delivered just minutes earlier.

A prolapsed umbilical cord went unspotted by midwives

In March 2010, a woman (whose identity has remained confidential) attended the Royal Sussex County Hospital to give birth to a son. However, during the delivery of the baby, midwives failed to notice a prolapsed cord.

An umbilical cord prolapse occurs when the cord comes out of the uterus either with or before the presenting part of the foetus. The condition is an acute obstetric emergency and requires immediate attention in order to minimise the risk of severe harm to the infant. While it is more common in breech deliveries, the overall incidence of prolapsed cord is estimated to be between 1 and 6 in 1,000 deliveries, making the condition relatively rare, but not uncommon.

Women who have had a rupture of their amniotic sac are more likely to suffer a prolapsed cord, with other risks including maternal or foetal factors that prevent the baby from occupying a normal position in the pelvis, such as a premature or very small foetus, or too much amniotic fluid. Current NHS guidelines emphasise that where there is an incidence of a prolapsed cord, there should be a focus on quick delivery, which usually means the use of an unplanned caesarean section.

There are indicators of the condition that the midwives at the Sussex hospital failed to spot. The baby should have been monitored, with any sudden decreases to the infant’s heart rate investigated for a prolapsed cord as a matter of urgency. Frequent examinations of the mother should also have been undertaken, as occasionally the cord can be seen or sometimes felt. However, due to the negligence of the midwives, the condition went unnoticed for some time, with London’s High Court hearing an expert state that had the child been delivered just 11 minutes earlier, it would have been born unharmed.

If you want to enquire about making a compensation claim for negligence associated with pregnancy, childbirth and maternity care, please contact one of our maternity and childbirth claims solicitors on 01895 207835 or 01895 207295. Alternatively, please email us at PI@ibblaw.co.uk or complete our online form. We offer a No-Win No-Fee Agreement so there is no financial risk involved if you are not successful.


The condition led to asphyxia, with the child left with lifelong damage

The primary concern with a prolapsed cord is that the infant is left with an inadequate blood supply. With the pressure on the cord, oxygen reaching the baby is also drastically reduced. If left untreated for a prolonged period, the condition can be fatal to the foetus.

As the cord was prolapsed for over 10 minutes, the baby was left in severe distress. The condition led to asphyxia in the baby, and while medics spotted it in time to save his life, he was left with brain damage and cerebral palsy affecting all four of his limbs. The family brought a claim for medical negligence on the child’s behalf, with the Brighton & Sussex University NHS Trust admitting liability in November 2012 and issuing an apology to the family.

With responsibility acknowledged, and the Trust repeating its apology in court, Judge Brian Forster was required to settle the amount of compensation due. He heard how the condition the child suffers means his mobility is drastically impaired, but that he has a considerable degree of preserved intellect. The five-year-old boy was reported as doing well at school, but would need a good education in order to ensure he was able to fulfill his potential.

A damages package worth £11.5m was awarded. Judge Forster stated that the child had made “remarkable progress”, which could be attributed to the “utterly devoted care he had received from his parents and wider family”. The award will cover a lifetime of specialist care and rehabilitation for the child, including a provision for loss of earning potential and a sum to cover his education needs. It was stated that the family now has the financial security and reassurance to ensure the child has the best possible chance in life.

How to obtain a compensation payout for hospital negligence during childbirth and care of a baby