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Baby's Death 'Caused By Confusion'

Asphyxiation During Emergency Caesarean


An inquest into the death of a newborn baby from asphyxiation at a Plymouth hospital has heard that the tragedy was caused by confusion which delayed an emergency Caesarean.

Bethany Descombe died after staff at Derriford Hospital decided an emergency Caesarean section was needed but it took a further 50 minutes before the operation was started, the inquest heard.

Bethany's mother, Sarah Descombe, 29, was taken to hospital on August 27, 2005 suffering severe back pain. Scans revealed the baby was in a difficult position for a natural birth and the decision was taken for an emergency Caesarean.

In a report, midwife Val McCulloch said the senior practice registrar identified the need for a Caesarean section at 1.10am on August 28 but that there was an "unacceptable delay in delivery" and Bethany was born at 2.07am. She said the notes indicated "inappropriate decision-making" by the midwives.

A misinterpretation of the trace that monitors foetal heart rate could have contributed to the delay, she said, adding that staff statements also suggested "confusion about the planned mode of delivery".

The inquest was told when Bethany was born her body was "floppy" and pale in colour. Staff began immediate "aggressive resuscitation" but the baby never recovered and died on August 30. The inquest ruled the cause of death was perinatal asphyxia.

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Dee Cavanagh from law firm Irwin Mitchell said: "In this case, there is a delay of 57 minutes in carrying out the caesarean section which is unacceptable. As a former midwife I know that hospital staff are usually acutely aware of the need to act quickly where an emergency caesarean is required, but unfortunately in my current role as a medical researcher at Irwin Mitchell we act on behalf of clients whose children have been severely injured as a result of similar delays".