Maternity inquest

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Oliver represents parents at North Devon maternity inquest

If you need guidance on maternity negligence then you can speak to specialist lawyer Oliver Thorne by calling our free legal helpline on 0808 139 1606 or send an email to us at [email protected]

Oliver Thorne, a lawyer specialising in maternity negligence, has represented the family of Freddie Barnett at a four day inquest in Exeter.

The family fought for an inquest to be held as they were unhappy with the circumstances surrounding Freddie’s death.

Nick Brown, assistant coroner for Devon, heard evidence from two obstetricians, three midwives, a consultant anaesthetist and a paediatrician, all of whom were involved in Freddie’s birth. In addition, the coroner instructed a number of expert witnesses to provide exert evidence on the events surrounding Freddie’s birth.

Charlotte Barnett, Freddie’s mother, attended North Devon District Hospital when she felt her waters break. She was examined by a midwife who concluded that Freddie was in the “head down” position and that she should go home and wait for her labour to commence.

When Charlotte returned to the hospital some hours later when her contractions started, she was examined by a trainee midwife who was concerned that Freddie was in fact in the breech position, meaning that his bottom would deliver first. Generally, when a breech presentation is diagnosed prior to labour starting mothers opt for a caesarean section because of the risks involved.  A senior midwife was called, but by the time she had arrived, one of Freddie’s feet had already been delivered. Two obstetricians reviewed the situation and the decision was made to continue with the vaginal delivery. The most senior of the two obstetricians left the room and after some difficulty Freddie was delivered. However, he was in very poor condition and sadly he died shortly after his birth.

Based on the evidence presented at the inquest, the coroner concluded:

  • Had Freddie’s position been correctly identified when Charlotte was examined 10 hours before he was born, it is likely he would have been safely delivered by caesarean section and survived.
  • That senior doctors Mr Eskander and Mr Erfan, were ‘ unconvincing witnesses’, and that they had not both examined her as was claimed in their evidence. Charlotte had only been examined by Dr Erfan.
  • Charlotte was given very limited information about the emergency situation she was in and was unable to make an informed decision.
  • If Charlotte had opted for a caesarean section, it was likely it would have been performed quickly and Freddie would have ‘probably’ survived.
  • Had both senior doctors been present at the birth and Freddie had been born one or two minutes earlier, it is likely he would have survived but would have suffered significant brain damage.

Following any inquest a coroner has the power to report his findings to a relevant professional body to prevent future deaths from happening. In Freddie’s case the coroner has requested that further information is to be provided to him and Slee Blackwell’s Oliver Thorne before considering what action to take to prevent future deaths.

Oliver has been dealing with birth injury claims for many years and has dealt with a large number of cases involving North Devon District Hospital in particular. In March 2020 he assisted the BBC with an investigation into failings at the Health Trust in relation to its maternity services https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-devon-51835095. Throughout the course of the investigation a number of reports were uncovered which highlighted failings directly linked to Freddie Barnett’s death.

If you would like to discuss maternity negligence on a confidential, free of charge basis then you can call specialist lawyer Oliver Thorne on 0808 139 1606 or send an email to [email protected]