Compensation for alleged negligent birth
A SEVEN-YEAR-OLD girl and her family have received an interim $1 million payout because a public hospital allegedly botched her birth, causing permanent brain damage.
- by: KEN McGREGOR
- From:The Advertiser
- June 01, 201012:01AM
Her parents, who are suing Mt Barker District Soldiers Memorial Hospital, say the situation has put them through hell and ruined their marriage.
They claim the mother endured a horrific labour because she was left without appropriate care during the delivery in January 2003.
The hospital has paid $1 million into a trust fund which can be accessed to pay for improvements to the child's lifestyle. It was described as an interim payment and is not an admission of liability.
Documents lodged with the court say her parents intend to use the money to buy a $645,000 purpose-built house for a disabled person, as well as more than $300,000 in equipment, treatment and respite care.
In the documents, the father describes his situation as "hell" and said he recently suffered a nervous breakdown.
The documents say the parents' marriage has been "completely ruined" and the father - who had worked as a head chef at various Adelaide restaurants - was finding it difficult to care for his daughter's needs.
"(He) is very angry at the obstetrician at the hospital, he would like him to know what it is like living with his daughter," a psychologist's report says.
"He knows that accidents will happen but this was completely avoidable. (The mother) believes her daughter is trapped (in her body), she believes her daughter is mentally aware and alert to what is happening around her," it says.
"(He) says he does not feel like a father, he does not want any celebration on Father's Day."
They claim the hospital failed to seek "alternative medical advice" when it became apparent the resident obstetrician could not be contacted, despite several attempts to page him.
They say the hospital failed to continuously monitor the girl's heartbeat, using a cardiotocography machine, when "such monitoring was indicated in the circumstances".
They also claim the hospital "failed to administer epidural pain relief in a manner that would facilitate continous CTG monitoring" and did not "exercise appropriate clinical judgment in relation to the woman's rapid dilation".
The report says the couple needed the urgent financial assistance to alleviate their "intolerable" situation.
Chair of Disability Speaks David Holst yesterday said it is "impossible" for the general community to grasp how stressful it is to care for a severely disabled child.
"It would cost the State Government up to $200,000 per year to provide around-the-clock support if it was available, but that would be unlikely," he said.
"About 85 per cent of marriages which have a disabled child collapse. The rate of depression for families with severely disabled children is double the national average.
"Anyone who thinks this family has had a financial windfall should swap places with them."
After the father's breakdown, the hospital made the interim payment of $1 million into the family's chosen trust account last September.
In its defence, the hospital denies the parents' claim that the baby was in foetal distress during the pregnancy. It also claims its attempts to resuscitate the girl shortly after her birth were "appropriate" in the circumstances.
A spokeswoman for Health Minister John Hill said the department could not comment on the matter as it was still before the courts.
The matter will next appear in court in October.
This is just something I have been musing…. I know on BH, people often ‘protest’ intervention, foetal monitoring, etc. during the labour & birth. Whenever I hear of how people are very opposed to intervention (Often as a result of a bad experience), I think of the story of my local hospital being sued because they did not intervene in a birth. Basically - The parents claimed the baby was in foetal distress, the hospital says the baby was not. The parents are saying an epidural should have been given and the baby should have had continual foetal monitoring. The parents say that from a lack of intervention, this caused their baby to be born with brain damage.
Now just to provide some background into the hospital (I gave birth at this hospital) – they believe in natural and active labour, low intervention, etc. There is not an anaesthetist at the hospital 24/7 – they have to be called in for an epidural, so you are told beforehand that you will be unlikely to receive an epi for pain relief, only for an emergency (eg, c section or forceps, etc). So you are basically told beforehand, if you want a birth that is highly monitored, given max pain relief, etc. it is not the hospital for you. (There are plenty of ‘bigger’ hospitals within a ½ hour drive that will provide this). It is also not staffed by dr’s 24/7, but an ob will be called in when a labouring woman is coming in. They only accept low-risk births, as they do not have the same resources, etc. as a bigger hospital. For ‘me’, this hospital really suited my birth wishes, I wanted a natural birth & had a wonderful water birth with lots of fantastic support. I know it isn’t for everyone, and some people choose not to birth there because they want the option of an epi for pain relief, etc.
So, I guess for any birth, the middies/ obs are have to make a judgement call…. Do I intervene, even if it might make birth less pleasant for the woman, or do I leave her continue to birth naturally at a risk of something going wrong? I know a lot of people on here have said they have had unnecessary C sections – but what if the ob thought – ‘it’s a 50/50 chance this c sect is unnecessary, but that’s not a risk I am willing to take’. This would result in a lot more intervention, but a lot less risk involved, and less cases like the one described in this article. I do really feel for obs – they have to make very difficult judgement calls with each birth as to whether or not to intervene, and if they choose to intervene, there may be a lot of unhappy women who may have had unnecessary c sections. If they choose not to intervene, they may have people living with a child with a disability. I guess I do really understand their predicament, and I know my point of view is biased because my hospital really only intervenes if they deem absolutely necessary. I know a lot of other hospitals do a lot of unnecessary intervention…. but then they’ve probably never been sued for not intervening if they should have done so?
So I feel like this is a ginormous ramble, but anyway, just something I think about when I think about hospital intervention!