Scots doctor can return to work after baby decapitation

A doctor who caused the decapitation of a baby after deciding on the wrong method of delivery has been cleared of serious misconduct and can return to work, a medical tribunal has ruled.
NHS Tayside's Ninewells Hospital where the tragedy took place. Picture: Ken Whitcombe/CCNHS Tayside's Ninewells Hospital where the tragedy took place. Picture: Ken Whitcombe/CC
NHS Tayside's Ninewells Hospital where the tragedy took place. Picture: Ken Whitcombe/CC

Dr Vaishnavy Vilvanathan Laxman proceeded with a regular delivery with a 30-year-old first-time mother who was 25 weeks pregnant at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee in March 2014.

The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MTPS) panel said “the only appropriate course” was a caesarean section as the baby - known as baby B - was in the breech position, with a prolapsed cord and low heart rate, and the mother’s cervix was less than 4cm dilated.

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The baby’s head became trapped during the birth and various techniques were tried to free it, but during this his “head became detached from his body”. MTPS said he had died before this happened.

On Tuesday, the tribunal cleared Dr Laxman of serious misconduct and said her fitness to practise was not impaired.

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It ruled the decision to proceed with a natural birth was “negligent and fell below the standards ordinarily to be expected” but did not amount to serious misconduct.

The panel’s written decision said: “The failing which the tribunal has found proved was not sustained, persistent or repeated, but rather a single error of judgement made in very difficult circumstances.

“The tribunal was satisfied that throughout the attempted delivery of baby B, Dr Vilvanathan Laxman believed that she was acting in both patient A’s and baby B’s best interests, and that she genuinely believed that proceeding with a vaginal delivery was the optimum course to take in the circumstances which existed at the time.”

The panel added: “The tribunal is satisfied that Dr Vilvanathan Laxman has expressed genuine and appropriate remorse for what happened, and she candidly accepted responsibility as the consultant in charge in theatre that day.

“Further, at no point has Dr Vilvanathan Laxman sought to blame others for what happened or to minimise her actions.”

It was ruled Dr Laxman should not receive a formal warning over the case and an interim order on her medical registration has now been revoked.

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The report said: “In all the circumstances, the tribunal has concluded that Dr Vilvanathan Laxman’s conduct did not fall so far short of the standards of conduct reasonably to be expected of a doctor as to amount to serious misconduct.

“In respect of patient safety, the tribunal was satisfied that Dr Vilvanathan Laxman does not currently present a risk to patients.

“Dr Vilvanathan Laxman’s wrong decision related to an isolated, single incident in an otherwise unblemished career.”

The panel concluded: “Nothing in this determination should detract from the fact that on March 16 2014 Dr Vilvanathan Laxman made a significant error of judgement which had serious consequences and a profound impact upon patient A and for which Dr Vilvanathan Laxman bears a heavy responsibility.”

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