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United Kingdom Implements New Program to Reduce Infant Stillbirths and Brain Injuries

At the end of 2017, the United Kingdom announced a new program it will be implementing in hopes of reducing the numbers of stillbirths and newborn brain injuries that are suffered every year. Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, shared that the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch will begin investigating mother and baby deaths, as well as other unexplained serious injuries, that occur annually in the United Kingdom. There are around 1,000 of these cases every year. The program will begin in April of 2018.

Currently, National Health Service (NHS) hospitals are in charge of investigating these devastating events. Under the new program, the investigations will be independent of these facilities.

Hunt has stated that his goal is to cut in half the number of stillbirths, maternal deaths, and neonatal deaths in the UK by 2025.

An NHS-sponsored study of deaths showed that in a vast majority—80 percent—of cases where the baby appeared healthy as labor began, better healthcare could have prevented the baby’s death. Staffing issues and heavy workloads were also noted as concerns. This study was one catalyst for the newly-announced program.

One mother, Sarah Hawkins, experienced a normal pregnancy. She was excited to deliver a baby girl, Harriet. However, she was told during the birth that Harriet had not made it. Sarah and her husband, Jack, were devastated.

When Sarah was admitted to the hospital, a chain of errors occurred that resulted in Harriet’s death. Harriet’s heart rate was not monitored properly, and by the time doctors and nurses realized the baby was in distress, it was too late.

Sarah and Jack pushed for answers for 19 months. It took this long before an independent investigation revealed what had happened to their baby.

Rather than forcing parents to launch an investigation of their own when they are grieving the loss of a baby, the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch will now take over these investigations. Parents who have lost a baby should not also have to endure the stress of leading an investigation into that death.

No such program in the United States

Currently, there is no independent agency that investigates maternal deaths, neonatal deaths, and stillbirths in the United States. Parents must seek answers on their own, which is often a difficult and lengthy process. Hospitals and other medical facilities may delay releasing these records, and the key documents may not be discoverable at all due to the “peer review privilege.”

If liability is not clear, it may be difficult to find a medical malpractice attorney willing to take the case. Medical malpractice cases are extremely expensive to litigate; therefore, many attorneys want to see clear liability before they are willing to accept a case. However, if independent investigations were conducted into stillbirths, maternal deaths, or neonatal deaths, this stress could be avoided for these parents, and they would be able to obtain the answers they deserve.

The Ohio medical negligence attorneys at the Eisen Law Firm are highly experienced in birth injury claims. With our experience and legal savvy, we quickly identify malpractice that may have otherwise gone undetected. To schedule a free consultation with our attorneys, call 216-687-0900 or contact us online.