Case study: Life changing settlement for boy born with cerebral palsy due to midwife negligence

cerebral palsy case study - cerebral palsy case - cerebral palsy case history

Tees secured a life-changing settlement for the family of a boy who suffers from cerebral palsy as a result of medical negligence during his birth.

Miles’ birth story reflects a number of failings, particularly a lack of communication and information sharing across the NHS, identified by HSIB in their most recent Maternity Investigation report. 

Miles’ story

Miles was born with severe cerebral palsy because he was starved of oxygen at birth. He suffers from quadriparesis (muscle weakness in all four limbs) and relies on a specialised wheelchair. He also has a serious learning disability and suffers from seizures as a result of his cerebral palsy.

Tees proved that Miles suffered a serious birth injury due to medical negligence. The doctors and midwives responsible for keeping him safe made mistakes which caused him to be born with cerebral palsy, including:

  • improperly set up monitoring equipment
  • failure to properly monitor Miles’ heart rate during labour
  • failure to recognise the signs that Miles was in distress
  • a delayed caesarean section.

Tees proved that these failures caused Miles to suffer from brain damage and a serious neurological disability. Sadly, medical negligence meant that Miles was starved of oxygen (asphyxiated) at delivery. Oxygen deprivation is a serious condition which can cause lasting brain injury and, in some cases, even lead to stillbirth or the baby’s death soon after delivery.

We secured a substantial settlement on behalf of Miles, and closure about what happened during his birth. The settlement means Miles has the quality of life he deserves. The family recently moved into a specially adapted house which is suitable for Miles’ needs. He also has a team of carers, case management, access to specialised equipment and regular therapy to manage his condition.

Miles’ birth story

Sam’s pregnancy was routine and considered ‘low risk’ by her midwives. Throughout the pregnancy, Sam and her partner were very excited to meet their child. They felt positive about the future. Sam decided to have a home birth; she lived near the hospital, and was confident that help was close by if she needed it.

Sam went over her due date (quite common for first babies) and went into labour naturally at home. As her labour progressed, she became concerned that her contractions were intense and seemingly random. She tried to time her contractions, but it was impossible.  

Sam’s partner phoned the hospital for help and a community midwife attended Sam at home. By this point, Sam had been in labour for a few hours; her contractions were irregular and she hadn’t felt baby Miles move since the early hours of the morning. The midwife recommended they go to hospital so Sam could be checked at the maternity unit. Sam trusted her midwife’s advice and went to the hospital. The midwife phoned ahead to the hospital, so that they could expect Sam and understand what had happened with her labour up until that point. 

Miles began to move almost as soon as they reached the hospital. Sam took this as a good sign, and felt reassured. However, staff at the hospital seemed not to know that Sam would be coming in. A midwife showed them into a maternity room, and left to find a piece of equipment so they could see how baby Miles was doing.

The midwife took over an hour to find the monitoring equipment. In that time the couple became increasingly anxious – they were alone, with no midwife to support them and Sam was in a great deal of pain. The monitor was not fit for purpose – it had no straps to secure it. The midwife tried to hold it in place with disposable underwear, but it kept slipping and falling off Sam’s stomach. Sam found out later that the monitor had been set up incorrectly. It meant that her midwives had the wrong information about Miles’ condition in the womb for some time. The monitor was replaced, and Sam laboured for some hours. She was disappointed when, after a few hours, she was no further dilated and her contractions became more and more painful.

With Sam’s labour not progressing, a doctor recommended an immediate caesarean section. Sam had to wait almost an hour for the caesarean section – an unacceptable delay which lead to Miles being asphyxiated at birth. Miles was covered in meconium when he was born – so much so that it was difficult for Sam to see his features. He did not cry, and struggled to breathe. He was intubated (to help him breathe) and taken to a special care unit. It was incredibly frightening, and Sam had no way of knowing that Miles would be born so poorly.

Sam was, understandably, incredibly worried for Miles’ health and shocked by the circumstances of his birth. She was told that Miles had only an 80% chance of survival. Miles survived, but the traumatic circumstances of his birth have changed his – and the family’s – life forever. He needs care for the rest of his life, and is unlikely to live independently or be able to have a job.

Following a recommendation from AvMA  (Action Against Medical Accidents), Sam contacted Tees about a potential claim on behalf of Miles. We took on their case, and successfully proved that Sam’s care during labour and delivery was negligent. Miles would have had a better outcome with better care and, on the balance of probabilities, would not have suffered cerebral palsy had his care been up to standard.

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Chat to the Author, Tim Deeming

Partner, Medical Negligence, Cambridge office

Meet Tim
Tim Deeming, partner and medical negligence specialist in Cambridge
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