Courts

Sunday 13 July 2014

Consultants' 'breathtaking mistakes' led to the death of our beautiful baby boy

Tim Healy and Jerome Reilly

Published 22/01/2014|02:30

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David and Roberta Dodds, from Sandyford, Dublin, at the Four Courts after settling their case against the Mount Carmel hospital. Picture: Courtpix
David and Roberta Dodds, from Sandyford, Dublin, at the Four Courts after settling their case against the Mount Carmel hospital. Picture: Courtpix

THE father of a "beautiful baby boy" who died because his wife's labour was botched by two consultant obstetricians has said the loss of his son was "sadly avoidable".

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Barrister David Dodd spoke after he and his wife Roberta received apologies in the High Court from Dublin's Mount Carmel Private Maternity Hospital and two consultant obstetricians over the loss of their first baby, Senan, two days after his birth.

The court was told experts witnesses would have described the errors made in the treatment received by Mrs Dodd as "breathtaking".

Outside court, Mr Dodd said: "He was a beautiful healthy baby boy. Having suffered catastrophic brain injury arising from the management of the birth in Mount Carmel, Senan was transferred in the early hours of the morning by ambulance to Holles Street Hospital to receive treatment there.

DISTRESS

"He met his extended family, was named and baptised. He passed away two days later. He was much loved. His death was sadly avoidable," he said.

The hospital and obstetricians Valerie Donnelly and Gerry Rafferty acknowledged fault in the management of Mrs Dodd's labour leading to the death of Senan.

The hospital and the consultants sincerely apologised in the court to Senan's parents for the tragic loss and the hurt and suffering that resulted for them from the care provided.

The apology was read out as Mr and Mrs Dodd, of Ticknock Dale, Ticknock, Sandyford, Dublin, settled their action for mental distress and nervous shock for an undisclosed sum.

The couple sued the hospital and the consultants following the death of Senan two days after he was born at the hospital on March 28, 2008.

The baby was transferred to Holles Street Hospital from Mount Carmel where he died on March 30. It was claimed Senan's death was caused by negligence and breach of duty, and the parents had suffered mental distress and nervous shock as a result.

There was a failure, it was claimed, to properly interpret or heed the significance of the serious abnormalities in the foetal heart rate pattern in a sufficiently prompt and timely manner and to ensure the earlier delivery of Senan. The case had been before the court for assessment of damages only.

An inquest in 2011 was told there was a delay in performing an emergency caesarean and the baby suffered severe brain damage. The court heard yesterday that the CTG trace showed the baby's heart rate was slowing at 3.50pm but he was not delivered until four hours later on March 28.

Bruce Antoniotti, counsel for the couple, said an expert witness would have given evidence that if Senan had been delivered within an hour or even an hour-and-a-half of the slow heart rate being detected, he would have escaped injury.

The court heard the obstetricians continued to administer oxytocin - a drug to speed up contractions. It also heard there were no facilities in the hospital at the time to take a foetal blood sample.

Counsel said at the inquest Mr Rafferty had offered his profound apologies and Ms Donnelly expressed regret.

Ms Justice Irvine said she knew no amount would compensate the couple.

Outside court, the couple's solicitor Michael Boylan said the family told RTE's 'Drivetime' that baby Senan had been subjected to four hours of serious foetal distress before he was delivered by forceps.

He said there was damning expert testimony available in relation to the case if it had not been settled. "Rarely do I see such strident criticisms. Usually the experts are quite sober and conservative," he said.

Mr Boylan quoted from one of the expert witness reports which stated: "The extent of the mistakes made here are truly breathtaking. That they were made by consultant obstetricians is deeply worrying."

Mr Boylan said in his view the events surrounding the death were "truly shocking".

A statement for Mount Carmel Hospital last night apologised to the Dodd family.

"Any negligence in any hospital, where it is found to have occurred, is deeply regrettable," it said. "The most recent national audit, published last October, into the death of babies in the weeks before or after birth found Mount Carmel to be well below the national average."

And a spokesman for the hospital said that "Dr Rafferty has not worked at the hospital for some time. Following a period of extended leave, his employment with the hospital officially ended approximately one year ago."

Irish Independent

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