Hospital Admits Errors After Birth Trauma Leaves Boy With Permanent Injuries

Parents Welcome Hospital's Pledge To Learn Lessons From Mistakes

01.04.2010

The parents of a Pembrokeshire boy, who has been left with severe physical birth injuries as a result of errors made by midwives, have finally received a formal apology after battling for almost five years for answers.

However, a medical law expert from Irwin Mitchell solicitors who specialises in birth injuries claims the incident, which happened in 2005, is not an isolated case and has welcomed the hospital's pledge to re-train staff and learn lessons from its mistakes.

4½ year old Matthew Griffiths from Haverfordwest suffers from a severe left-sided Erbs Palsy, a condition that affects the nerves in the arm, which is most commonly caused as a result of damage to the brachial plexus during a traumatic delivery. As a result of mistakes made both before and during his birth, he has been left with a severely deformed upper limb and a life- long disability in his left arm.

Problems first arose when Matthew's mum, Diane Griffiths, developed gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Her antenatal care was mismanaged when her condition went undetected and as a result baby Matthew was 10lbs 1 oz at birth. During Diane's labour at Withybush General Hospital, Haverfordwest, in June 2005, midwives failed to follow recognised steps and procedures to correctly deliver Matthew whose shoulder had become impacted behind his mother's pelvis after his head had been delivered.

Hywel Dda NHS Local Health Board has now accepted liability for Matthew's injuries, paving the way for a future settlement which is expected to be a six figure sum.

Cathie Delaney, a medical negligence solicitor with Irwin Mitchell solicitors, who represented the family, said: "The fact that both Diane and Matthew received sub-standard midwifery care is serious cause for concern.

"Even after Diane's diabetes went undetected, resulting in baby Matthew being larger than normal at birth, there are universally accepted guidelines and procedures for dealing with a baby whose shoulders become stuck during delivery. Sadly, the midwives failed to follow these procedures, which have been common obstetric practice since the mid to late 1990s, resulting in Matthew sustaining permanent nerve damage to his left shoulder.

"He has since had to undergo surgery to correct some of the deformities in his upper limb in an attempt to improve his range of movement.  It is likely that he will need further surgery but it is quite clear that there will be considerable limitations placed upon him. His injury is permanent and this will affect his ability to perform many of his daily living activities and to participate in leisure pursuits. As he grows older his choice of career will also be affected because of the physical limitations he has."

Matthew's Mum, Diane Griffiths, commented: "Matthew has severe disabilities. His Erb's Palsy limits him in so many ways and he gets very frustrated that he cannot do all the things that other little boys of his age are able to do.

"Last year we bought Matt a bike, which he has since been trying to learn how to ride with the help of stabilisers.  However, the braking system needs to be adapted for his safety because he has insufficient length and strength in his left arm to apply the brakes.

"In Summer, when we go to the park, Matt has a real struggle with the swings and slides because he cannot hold on to the chain on the swing and finds the ladders on the slides a real struggle."

"Even little things like drinking a cup of tea cause him problems. Because he can't use his one arm he has to use both arms to balance the cup or he ends up tipping it to one side."

"Dressing and undressing is a thing we take for granted but for Matt it is a real challenge.  He has difficulties with buttons and putting on his socks.  He wears jogger pants instead of trousers because he cannot fasten the buttons on the latter, and he prefers loose baggy tops because they are easier to put on and take off. He has enormous difficulty when changing his clothes for PE at school."

"However, despite the difficulties he faces, he does try to live life to the full. Matt has just started Gymnastics for the disabled.  He absolutely loves it and, who knows, my determined little boy may be a Paralympian one day!"

Cathie Delaney added: "Diane and her husband Tudor Griffiths' decision to pursue legal action was taken not only to provide for the interests of their son, but also to gain answers as to how such an apparently fundamental midwifery error could have happened in an attempt to safeguard other families from suffering the same fate as their son. Safety for mother and baby should be in the forefront of every practitioners' mind when dealing with obstetric emergencies.  The onus is on them to keep up-to-date with current practice."

"I have recently received another admission from the same Local Health Board in respect of another Erbs Palsy claim where the child has suffered a similar injury to Matt's.   During the course of my career it has been my sad duty to prosecute around 150 cases throughout the UK where Erbs Palsy has resulted from basic obstetric and midwifery errors. I very much hope that the Hywel Dda NHS Local Health Board’s pledge to retrain its midwives means that lessons have been learned at this particular hospital."

If your child suffered Erb’s Palsy due to negligence at birth, our lawyers could help you claim compensation . Call 0808 163 4557 for a free consultation or visit our Erb's Palsy Claims page for more details.