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Goncalves v Newham University Hospital Trust

MLC 1725


The Claimant, Macmillan, a second twin, was born at 19.47 hrs on 19.01.96 at Newham University Hospital and suffers from teraplegic dyskinetic cerebral palsy as a result of oxygen deprivation shortly before, during and after his birth.  Macmillan’s twin brother was born in a healthy condition at 19.10 hrs.  The case was complicated by the hospital’s loss of the mother’s clinical records, the obstetric and midwifery notes and cardiotocograph (“CTG”) records and failure to call witnesses who recollected the emergency that occurred.

The agreed expert evidence was that brain damage was unlikely to have resulted from hypoxia of less than 10 minutes and Macmillan would have avoided brain damage if the period of acute hypoxia had been less than 15 minutes.  The bracket for the damaging period of hypoxia was agreed by the paediatric neurologists to be 16-25 minutes.

Held: Macmillan’s breech presentation should have been discovered shortly after his brother’s birth and the obstetric registrar should have been present by 19.20 hrs if not earlier and he would have been able to detect the cord prolapse and bradycardia (which would have shown on the CTGs) promptly.  The cord prolapse and bradycardia occurred at about 19.25 hrs to 19.30 hrs and accepted that there was a panic in the delivery room (as the parents described) and delay in securing the attendance of the obstetric registrar.  The likely period of unnecessary delay was likely to have been approximately 8-10 minutes.

But for the hospital’s negligence, Macmillan would not have suffered damaging asphyxia/hypoxia and would have been delivered unharmed.  Macmillan’s claim therefore succeeded on liability and causation.  There will be an assessment of damages hearing on a later occasion.

Nicholas Yell acted for the Claimant.