Northern Ireland news

Series of failures contributed to baby's stillbirth, inquest told

Michelle and Barry Rocks at Belfast Coroner's Court where an inquest for their still born daughter Cara is being held. Picture by Lesley-Anne McKeown, Press Association 
Lesley-Anne McKeown, Press Association

A CATALOGUE of failures contributed to the stillbirth of a baby girl at a Co Derry hospital, a landmark inquest has heard.

The Northern Health and Social Care Trust apologised for the death of Cara Rocks in June 2013, admitting that mistakes had been made.

Barrister David Dunlop told Belfast Coroner's Court on Tuesday: "It is likely if an elective or emergency C-section had taken place baby Cara would not have been stillborn."

The hearing, listed for five days, is the first ever stillbirth inquest in Northern Ireland and follows a Court of Appeal ruling in November 2013.

Coroner Joe McCrisken said the region was "leading the way" in the examination of stillbirth causes.

Cara died at the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine on June 26 2013.

In a statement, a lawyer for the Northern Trust said it was "accepted" a number of errors had played a part in her death.

These included:

:: Wrongly categorising Michelle Rocks, who had a previous caesarean section, as "low risk".

:: Inadequate levels of counselling from a senior medic on the mode of delivery.

:: Administration of the hormone Propess to induce labour without the risks being discussed with Mrs Rocks.

:: Incorrect recording of Cara's heart rate as suspicious, not pathological meaning critical, following induction.

:: Delays in the decision to proceed to an emergency C-section because of time spent trying to locate a foetal heart rate.

The trust's lawyer added: "The trust wishes to express an apology to Mr and Mrs Rocks for the unfortunate death of baby Cara.

"Obviously this is a tragedy for the family. It is not taken lightly and is recognised by all members of the trust who were involved in this case."

In the witness box Mrs Rocks (38), from Moneymore near Magherafelt, Co Derry, broke down as details of the delivery were read out.

She recalled repeatedly requesting a planned C-section over fears of complications and risks following bad experiences with her two sons.

She said: "Because I had an emergency section with Daniel and a normal birth with Tony which ended up in a vacuum delivery, I knew I couldn't deliver.

"I had gone through both so I knew what was best for me."

Mrs Rocks described feeling "very upset" and said she was "in tears" when she was informed her request for an elective C-section would not be facilitated and that she was "capable" of delivering naturally.

She added: "I thought that they had the right to refuse me.

"I thought the decision was made and that's that."

The court also heard how Mrs Rocks was sent home after presenting at the Causeway Hospital at 38 weeks' gestation with her baby in a transverse position.

She "begged" for a C-section but was turned down, it was claimed.

Following her daughter's death, Mrs Rocks said she was left feeling angry, anxious and distressed at the sight of other babies.

She also lost faith in the medical profession, the inquest heard.

"Our lives were turned upside down. I do not think that we will ever get over the loss," Mrs Rocks said.

"We were robbed of our daughter; our sons of their sister and parents of their granddaughter.

"We only wish that she had that chance to live."

It was later revealed that Mrs Rocks and her husband Barry have since had another daughter, Megan-Rose, who was delivered by a planned C-section 18 months ago.

Among the medics to give evidence was midwife of over 20 years Michaela Doherty who had cared for Mrs Rocks in the delivery suite.

She too broke down in tears recalling the tragedy and said that despite difficulties in reading baby Cara's heart rate she did not believe it was not there.

Later she told the court she had been informed that baby Cara's umbilical cord had been wrapped around her neck.

"I was told the cord was tightly round the neck three times," Ms Doherty said.

"It was common knowledge."

Another midwife, Lisa Richmond, said she was not aware of a situation where a woman's preference for an elective caesarean section had been refused.

Opening the case, the coroner cautioned that the five-day hearing was not a trial.

Mr McCrisken said: "This is not a trial and no one is on trial.

"This is a fact-finding inquiry. I am not here to attribute any blame or responsibility."

The case continues.

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