October is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month. Baby loss awareness week takes place at the beginning of October and is a week of reflection and remembrance for all babies who are sadly not with us today. Candles are lit across the country and services are held in remembrance. Very sadly, the UK has above average rates of stillbirth when compared with other high-income countries. Devastatingly, maternity scandals are all too regularly reported in the UK.
As medical negligence solicitors we often help families to bring a legal claim if negligence has led to the loss of a baby or a stillbirth. This is understandably an incredibly difficult time for parents and beginning a legal claim after a stillbirth may feel daunting. We understand that no amount of money can change the situation and that discussing a financial settlement after a stillbirth may feel very cold. The only recourse we have in clinical negligence claims is to secure a financial settlement to account for the pain, suffering and financial loss experienced as a result of the negligence. We hope that by guiding families through the process of bringing a claim we can help them to find answers about the care received and encourage Trusts to recognise failings in their care and take steps to improve services.
What investigations are carried out after a stillbirth?
After a stillbirth, a hospital will carry out a review of the care that you received to understand how and why your baby died.
The Perinatal Mortality Review Tool (PMRT) aims to provide answers about why a baby died. A PMRT review of the care a mother and baby received will take place to review the death of a baby after 22 weeks’ gestation. The review will look at the events leading up to a stillbirth. Families are informed the review will take place and should be provided with an opportunity to ask questions or provide information about the care received. Families will be informed of the outcome of the review and should be offered an appointment with a consultant to discuss the findings of the review and answer any questions.
The Health and Safety Investigation Branch (HSIB) will investigate the death of a full-term baby from 37 weeks’ gestation, including intrapartum stillbirths (when a baby is thought to be alive during labour but is born without signs of life). HSIB will discuss with you how you would like to be involved in the investigation.
If there may have been failings in the care you received, the Trust will carry out a Serious Incident Investigation or a Patient Safety Incident Response Framework investigation. Investigations are carried out under these frameworks with the aim of preventing reoccurrence.
Medical examinations: a post-mortem or placental histology
At present, a Coroner does not have the power to investigate a stillbirth.
A post-mortem can be carried out with your consent. A post-mortem is a medical examination of your baby which can be carried out to find out whether there are any medical factors that caused or contributed to the death. A post-mortem cannot be carried out following a stillbirth without your consent.
A histopathological examination of placenta may also be carried out.