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Hospital payout over twin tragedy

Brain damage caused at birth


An NHS trust has agreed to pay damages to a mother who claimed negligent monitoring led to the death of one of her twins and left the other disabled.

In 1998 Faye Austin became pregnant with twin girls but scans later showed they shared the same placenta.

Mrs Austin gave birth prematurely and one of the girls died a week later.

Barnsley Hospital NHS Trust agreed to pay damages, said to be up to £2.5m, ahead of a High Court trial. It will provide care for the surviving twin.

The identical monochorionic diamniotic twins, Elspeth and Charlotte, were growing in their own foetal sacks but shared the same placenta.

Careful monitoring is required to guard against the twins becoming fused in the womb as these pregnancies are known to be troublesome.

Both babies suffered serious damage to their lungs and Charlotte died a week after she was born in September 1998.

Elspeth survived but was kept alive only by being fed oxygen for the first 15 months of her life.

She suffered cerebral palsy as a result of her brain being starved of oxygen and, now aged eight, will require care for the rest of her life.

She claimed more frequent checks should have been carried out to prevent problems occurring stating that the hospital's system of managing twin pregnancies at the time was negligent.

Negligence denied by Hospital

The trust denied negligence but agreed to pay out 50% of the full value of Elspeth's claim to settle the case ahead of a seven-day High Court trial which was due to start next Monday.

Guy Mansfield QC, for the trust, said while there had been no admission of liability, the management of twin pregnancies at the hospital had been overhauled in response to the tragedy.

He said: "The trust is pleased it has reached a settlement in this case and hopes that it will in due course contribute to providing for Elspeth's needs.

"The trust did investigate these events after the complaint by Elspeth's parents and did conclude that the management system in place was appropriate at that time.

"However, there have since been changes in the management of twin pregnancies and, as a result, the risk of a repeat of these events has been minimised."
The exact amount of the damages payout will be assessed at a later court hearing.