Baby Boy Born Three Minutes Too Late – Clinical Negligence Ruling


Childbirth is always an anxious time and, for newborn babies, events that occur in a few short minutes can result in a lifetime of acute disability. That was sadly so in the case of a little boy who would have escaped devastating injury had he been brought into the world just three minutes earlier.

The boy was in a profoundly asphyxiated condition when he was delivered. A healthy baby can usually withstand 10 minutes of such asphyxia without suffering permanent brain damage. However, oxygen starvation, arising from compression or occlusion of his umbilical cord, began several minutes before he was born. By the time blood circulation was restored to his brain seven minutes after his birth, it was too late.

After a clinical negligence claim was lodged on his behalf against the NHS trust that bore responsibility for his care, medical experts on both sides agreed that, had he been delivered three or more minutes earlier than he was, he would have sustained no permanent damage to his brain.

Upholding his claim, the High Court found that, had a midwife listened intermittently to his heartbeat in the minutes prior to his delivery, ominous decelerations in its rate would have been detected. Had that occurred, he would have been delivered and resuscitated those three crucial minutes earlier and avoided permanent neurological injury. If not agreed, the amount of his compensation – which is likely to be very substantial – will be assessed at a further hearing.

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