Mother wins payout over son’s birth after 20 years

The Court of Session in Edinburgh. Picture: Toby Williams

The Court of Session in Edinburgh. Picture: Toby Williams

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A MOTHER has won a damages claim brought on behalf of her disabled son over alleged negligence at his birth more than two decades ago.

A judge ruled that Helen Coyle had proved “a causal connection” between a breach of duty by midwives and the injury sustained by Ryan, now 20, who suffers from quadriplegic cerebral palsy.

The 45-year-old mother, from Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, claimed that the brain injury her son suffered during labour at Bellshill Maternity Hospital was caused by the fault and negligence of midwives and an obstetrician.

She sued Lanarkshire Health Board in an action originally seeking £15 million at the Court of Session in Edinburgh.

An agreement over the amount to be paid was reached in the event of liability being established, although details of the terms of the periodic payment order were not disclosed in Lord Tyre’s judgment.

The health authority contested the action, arguing there was no fault on the part of the obstetrician and that any failure by midwives did not cause the baby’s injury.

The judge held that negligence on the part of Dr David Anderson was not proved but that a breach of duty by midwives was established.

The court heard that the mother’s pregnancy had progressed without complication before she was admitted to the maternity hospital for induction in August 1993. Ryan was born two days after her admission on 16 August. She was given an infusion to stimulate contractions and the foetal heart rate was monitored by cardiotocograph.

In the action, it was agreed that midwifery staff, if acting with ordinary skill and care, should have called for medical help at around 23:00 and that if Ryan had been born before 23:15 he would not have suffered the injury.

Ryan was born at 23.47 and was resuscitated with suction and oxygen.

Dr Anderson said in evidence that if he had been called to the delivery room by midwives at or shortly before 23:00, he would have moved to expedite the birth and considered it would have been suitable for forceps delivery.

The judge said that on the basis of a midwife’s note recording a deceleration in heart beats at 22:55 and evidence from midwifery experts, that was the time when a midwife exercising reasonable skill and care would have called for medical assistance.

Lord Tyre said: “Such a call would have been made on the basis that that assistance was urgently required.”

The judge said he rejected a submission from the mother’s lawyers that the evidence showed a doctor should have been called ten minutes earlier.

He said: “No breach of duty was committed until ten minutes later when the relatively inexperienced midwives left in charge of her care failed to react appropriately to a pathological trace which, as they ought to have realised, necessitated urgent medical review.”

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