30 August 2019
In most cases, obstetricians and midwives deliver healthy, normal babies. However, in a small proportion of cases, the delivery involves birth trauma, and this can, in a small percentage of cases, unfortunately, lead to the baby developing cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia.
If your child falls within this small percentage of cases and you seek legal advice, it is important that you approach a lawyer who knows the subject very well, both in terms of theory and practice and is highly experienced in medical negligence law.
The knowledge and experience required from a solicitor in this most difficult and complex area of medical negligence law include:
- the capacity to accurately read and interpret the relevant clinical records and medical terminology;
- an understanding of the steps required to investigate your potential claim, including knowing whether there is a likelihood for a successful outcome and advising you as such;
- experience in gathering evidence, including expert opinions from leading professionals;
Several steps need to be taken by the solicitor when investigating the likelihood of a successful claim. Some of the steps include:
- defining whether or not the pregnancy was high or low risk. This involves a consideration of various risk factors, including hypertension, asthma, premature rupture of membranes, multiple gestations, post-date gestation;
- obtaining the CTG trace and the blood gas readings, and knowing whether or not there is, for example, evidence of acidosis. The interpretation of the CTG trace is informed by whether or not the pregnancy was high or low risk;
- interpreting the clinical materials to determine the presence of other abnormal symptoms, which should have been a red light for the obstetrician or midwife, including:
- fetal tachycardia, where the baseline heart rate is more than normal (i.e. more than 160 beats per minute);
- fetal bradycardia, where the baseline heart rate is less than normal (i.e. less than 100 beats per minute), which may indicate hypoxia in some cases;
- an abnormal baseline variability of the fetal heart rate from one rate to the next (i.e. outside the normal range of 5-25 beats per minute). This may indicate acidosis and/or hypoxia; and
- a Type 2 ‘dip’ in variability (i.e. ‘decelerations).
A solicitor who holds him or herself out as competent to conduct this sort of medical negligence work should be able to read the clinical notes in fine detail. He should be aware of the necessity of obtaining the CTG trace, the blood gas readings, and of knowing whether or not there is, for example, evidence of acidosis.
The capacity to accurately read and interpret the clinical records may well be the difference between good and bad legal advice as to whether or not there may be prospects of success in a birth trauma claim.
Author: Terry Stern
Reference: Dr Lewis Potter ‘CTH, Data Interpretation, Obstetrics & Gynecology’ https://geekymedics.com/how-to-read-a-ctg/
Disclaimer: The content of this article is intended only to provide a summary and general overview of matters of interest. It does not constitute medical or legal advice and should not be relied on as such.