Wrong Use of Forceps: The Sad Story of a Badly Damaged Baby

3 Min Read

Enable Law Partner, Paul Sankey, shows how this recent court case highlights the importance of using forceps correctly.

JRM was one of twins born on 28th February 2009. His mother went into labour early at 29 weeks. 5 days before the birth she had been admitted to Kings College Hospital. She experienced pain and bleeding. A scan showed a lack of amniotic fluid around JRM (the waters around him had broken). She was admitted and given antibiotics in case there was infection which might harm either baby.

Her pain got worse and by 28th February 2009 she was having contractions. She was found to be 9 cm dilated. She was taken to theatre so that if need be her babies could be delivered by forceps. When the heartbeat of one of the babies’ was found to be slowing, JRM was delivered by forceps. The second baby was delivered in breech position.

The doctor delivering JRM (an obstetrician) thought he was in the best possible position for birth. This is head down facing the spine, his chin tucked into his chest. It is known as the ‘occipito-anterior’ position. He applied the forceps and pulled.

There was a dispute about exactly how he used the forceps. He and another doctor present at the birth said he was very gentle in the delivery and used 2 pulls. JRM’s mother said he made several attempts at delivery. His father said he was surprised by the amount of force used. The doctors said there was little bruising on the chest and head initially. The father said the nurses commented that they had never seen such bad bruising on a baby’s chest and head.

Sadly, JRM was found to be very severely injured. His legs and arms were paralysed. He breathes through a tube in his windpipe (a tracheotomy). He relies on a ventilator.

The parents brought a claim on JRM’s behalf. At trial the judge rejected the evidence of the 2 doctors and was critical of the decision to fight the case. He found that the doctor managing the birth had negligently caused JRM’s serious injuries. He had made a mistake in thinking the baby was in the occipito-anterior position. In fact he was in the ‘occipito-lateral’ position, with his head to one side. This meant the forceps were used wrongly. Delivery was much more difficult. Excessive force was needed to get JRM out. This caused his severe injuries.

JRM has won his claim. The court will now assess how much he should receive in damages. Those damages will help pay for his care for life. They will provide for a very deserving child.

This sad story shows how important it is to work out which position a baby is in before birth and to use forceps in the right way. Although the vast majority of babies are born safely, where things go wrong, mistakes can be devastating for babies and their families.

Claims for babies like JRM are complex. It is important to have the best lawyers with the right experience for these difficult issues. Enable Law’s solicitors who act on these claims are accredited experts. If you or someone you know has had a similar experience, you can speak to us in confidence today on 0800 448 488.

Follow Paul on Twitter  @PaulJSankey