The birth process is a very precious time for every family, and the majority of births will proceed without complication. However, according to SAND (Stillborn and neonatal death charity), every day in the UK 17 babies are stillborn or die shortly after birth. Some of these deaths may be due to recognised or known complications of the birth process. It is concerning that some of these deaths will be due to a baby suffering from a birth injury due to failures in treatment before, during and after birth.
Clinical negligence may be involved in the fatality if the relevant obstetricians and midwives failed to take the action or investigation necessary to prevent the injury to the baby.
If a baby has passed away pre-birth after 24 weeks gestation or more, this will be regarded as a stillbirth.
If a baby is born alive, and tragically passes away post birth, this will be regarded as an infant mortality.
1. What can cause infant mortality?
There are a number of causes which may lead to infant mortality including;
- Pre-existing medical conditions
- Maternal or gestational diabetes or high blood pressure
- Problems with the placenta that have affected the blood supply to the baby
- Congenital abnormalities such as heart conditions, or genetic birth defects
- Birth trauma – such as a disruption in the supply of oxygen to the baby
- Although some of these causes of death cannot be prevented, there are some that can with better treatment and investigation from the medical clinicians involved.
2. When can you make an infant mortality compensation claim?
You may be able to pursue a medical negligence compensation claim for infant mortality if it can be proven that the treatment and/or investigation provided by the medical clinicians involved in your pregnancy, birth or aftercare was substandard and that this substandard treatment has been the most substantial factor in the death of your baby.
3. Who can make an infant mortality claim?
The parents of a baby who has died due to substandard treatment can pursue a medical negligence compensation claim.
4. How much compensation do infant mortality claims usually secure?
Whilst it is appreciated that no amount of money will ever be able to compensate the sense of loss that is felt with a loss of a life, the clinical negligence claim procedure has a specified way in which claims are valued based on the law at present.
There are four main elements to the compensation that can be recovered:
- General damages – This is for the pain and suffering that the parents of the baby have suffered, mainly in terms of a recognised psychiatric injury.
- Special damages – This is for any losses and expenses that may have been incurred in the past and may still be incurring. This can include, for example, loss of earnings for extended periods of time off work and also any costs for counselling that may have been (or is yet to be) incurred to help parents to cope with their loss.
- Bereavement damages – A sum of £11,800 is awarded to the parents of a baby who has passed away where negligence is proven to have been the significant factor in the baby's death.
- Funeral expenses – If they are paid by the parents of the baby.