Advising with empathy and experience

Award for birth injury to mother.

The CNCI team have recovered compensation for a young mother after complications during the birth of her son led to a difficult forceps delivery.
The Claimant’s son was born at York Hospital after a lengthy labour.  During the second stage of labour a decision was made that the Claimant required assistance to deliver the baby.  The Claimant had previously discussed with family members that if she encountered any difficulties in delivering the baby then she would like to have a caesarean section rather than forceps or ventouse delivery.
The Claimant maintains that she made her wishes clear to the obstetrician in attendance. The Claimant’s partner and mother were also present and understood that the Claimant did not want to undergo a forceps attempt.  The Claimant was provided with a consent form to sign which, the Claimant maintains, identified a caesarean section but not a forceps attempt.
Notwithstanding her wishes, the Claimant was prepared for a forceps attempt.  The attempt was carried out in theatre.  Unfortunately, the delivery became complicated.  The baby’s shoulders became stuck and it took considerable time to deliver the baby.
 The clinician used two different types of forceps. The Claimant remained conscious throughout the delivery and was extremely distressed by the difficulties in delivering the baby.  The Claimant’s partner was also present. 
Subsequently the Claimant was advised that the baby may have suffered brain damage as a result of the delay during delivery.  For several days after the baby was born his mother and father kept a bedside vigil.  Eventually, and despite an initially poor prognosis, the baby’s condition improved and he was well enough to be discharged.
The Claimant’s case focused upon her lack of consent to the forceps attempt.  Medical evidence was obtained which confirmed there were no obvious failings in terms of management of labour prior to delivery.  Although the forceps attempt was complicated and difficult there was no evidence that any failings in obstetric technique delayed the delivery.  The central issue was whether the client should have undergone a forceps attempt when in fact she had signed a form consenting to a caesarean section.
There was a straightforward factual dispute between Claimant and Defendant as to whether the form she had signed had included reference to a forceps trial.  The Claimant’s mother was able to provide evidence that the form, when signed, did not make any reference to the forceps trial and that in fact her daughter had only been consented to the caesarean section.
Evidence was also available from a medical expert that had a caesarean section been carried out, then the Claimant would have been spared the distressing events at the time of the forceps attempt/  furthermore, the Claimant would have been spared the post delivery infection that she developed.
The claim was settled by negotiation after issue and service of proceedings but prior to trial.
Kim Daniells of the CNCI team said as follows “This was a difficult and unusual case. The key issue was that of consent.  Put simply, the Claimant argued that she did not consent to the course of treatment provided  (the forceps attempt).  We are pleased that the Defendants have agreed to settle this case.  It will enable the Claimant to focus upon bringing up her young family and will help to put this difficult and painful episode behind her.  Increasingly we are seeing cases where Claimants argue that they have not given full and informed consent to medical procedures.  Claimants are much less willing to accept that the doctor always knows best.   Patients, quite understandably, want to be involved in the decision making about their treatment”.