Woman Told Consent Form Failure Led To Retention Scandal At Walsall Manor Hospital

Expert Medical Lawyer Says Former Patients Deserve Transparency From Hospital

03.04.2014

A woman who suffered a miscarriage three years ago has been told that her baby’s body was retained at Walsall Manor Hospital without her consent because nurses failed to offer her the necessary cremation consent paperwork.

The 21-year-old, who does not wish to be named, has instructed medical law experts at Irwin Mitchell to investigate after she was told by the hospital the baby boy she lost at around 14 weeks in April 2011 had been kept ‘in storage’ in the morgue ever since.

Now, the woman says she wants answers from the Trust about:
• Why her baby was kept for so long;
• How long the appropriate consent process was not followed by nurses;
• Why the Trust alluded to her that they are only contacting five women out of a possible 86 affected.

Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust confirmed last month that they had launched a full investigation into the ‘administrative errors’ that meant the remains of 86 unborn babies from miscarriages and abortions were kept at the hospital for up to four years, when they should have been cremated within months.

The Human Tissue Authority (HTA) is investigating the matter and a report is due to be made public within weeks.

The woman, who lives in Wolverhampton, said: “I saw something on Facebook about Walsall Manor Hospital having a large number of dead babies in storage from miscarriages between certain years.

“At first I thought it surely couldn’t affect me because a nurse had told me over the phone after I lost my son that he would be cremated and his ashes would be scattered with dignity.

“But I had a niggling feeling so I decided to call the hospital later that day and I left my name and date of birth. Within five minutes someone called me back and said ‘unfortunately your baby is still with us’.

“I dropped the phone in shock as I couldn’t believe this was happening. When she phoned back later that evening she told me that there had been an administration error because the nurses hadn’t completed the necessary paperwork at the time of the miscarriage giving my consent for the cremation. She said it was because of this that a large number of babies had been kept in storage and nobody knew what to do with them.

“She then said it had only come to light because a vicar had visited the morgue and asked why there were so many babies there.”

The woman added: “I am still struggling to contemplate exactly what has gone on. It has brought back all my thoughts and emotions from the time I had the miscarriage. I feel like my baby has not been put to rest all these years and I still can’t decide whether I want the hospital to cremate him or if I should arrange something myself.

“I feel constantly upset yet angry that it has taken so long for the issue to come to light. I want to know why this is the case and I think it’s only fair that the Trust confirm how long passed with the consent process not being followed as I’m worried there could be even more women affected.

“I also want to know why the Trust has made the decision to only contact five women. All women have a right to know if they are affected by this and I urge anyone who has any concerns to phone the hospital and demand the truth – they should not be allowed to get away with this.”

Mandy Luckman, a Partner and medical law expert at Irwin Mitchell’s Birmingham office, is acting on behalf of the unnamed woman and has received enquiries from multiple other women.

Expert Opinion
Confirmation from Walsall Manor Hospital that her baby was retained has understandably had a huge emotional and psychological impact on my client.

“If it is the case that nurses did not follow the correct consent procedure for cremation, the Trust must provide answers about how it was possible for such a huge failure to happen in the first place and how long it went on for.

“We question whether the Trust’s decision to only inform five former patients is correct as many other women, like our client, will want to know if it concerns them. The Trust must offer information to all of those affected.

“The NHS says it is working towards being more transparent and open with patients when things go wrong, but the people we have spoken to are concerned that the issue might never have come to light were it not for the Freedom of Information request being made public last month.

“This clearly raises questions about what systems failed to allow the situation to reach such a scale and all of those affected deserve to know what measures have been put in place to ensure the same scandal cannot happen again and to prevent patients from suffering any further distress.

“We urge anyone with concerns to contact the hospital helpline immediately.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner

Anyone with concerns should contact 0345 835 7626.

 

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