British Authorities Fault Hospital in New Mother's Death After Error Administering an Epidural

Authorities in the UK have ruled that a new mother’s death from brain bleeding in 2010 was due to “gross failures” by the hospital where she stayed during the labor. Malgorzata Doniec stayed at Croydon University Hospital, where she received an epidural by an anesthetist in training. The epidural needle punctured the dural membrane at the base of her spine, causing cerebrospinal fluid to leak into the epidural space, and for fluid to build up in her skull. Although Doniec suffered “agonizingly painful” headaches as a result, the physicians and midwives who examined her in the weeks following the birth failed to locate the cause of her symptoms due to errors in note taking. Her medical notes mentioned the dural tap, but the summary sheets did not.

ambulance.jpgFinally, a few days before Doniec’s death, she was readmitted to the hospital, but physicians could not determine what was wrong and she died less than a month after giving birth.

The inquiry into her death found that failure to mention the dural tap on the summary sheets prevented later physicians and midwives from knowing what was wrong. Then later, after Doniec was admitted to the hospital in the days before her death, the failures of care continued. Croydon University Hospital gave her a painkiller injection, but it took another three hours before Doniec could meet with a doctor. The doctor suspected that Doniec was suffering from pressure within the skull, but could not order a CT scan because outside of normal business hours, they were for patients with clear head injuries only. Then Doniec was not admitted to the care of medical ward staff until six in the morning and then not seen around noon. No one at the hospital called a specialist in neurology to seek advice.

An expert witness told authorities that Croydon University Hospital’s treatment constituted a “gross failure” to provide comprehensive care. However, a hospital spokesperson countered that there was not enough evidence to find that the hospital staff committed neglect. The inquiry will continue for another week.

While Doniec’s death was in the UK, similarly tragic, preventable deaths happen to pregnant women and new mothers in the United States as well. One of the most preventable deaths comes from maternal hypertension, which can strike even women with no history of hypertension. Physicians and other hospital staff must properly monitor the condition, or it can get out of control, endangering the health of both the mother and the fetus. Those who have lost loved ones to complications from maternal hypertension have the option of filing a medical malpractice lawsuit. If you have experienced this and live in Maryland or Washington, D.C., contact an experienced Baltimore birth injury attorney as soon as possible.

Wais, Vogelstein, Forman & Offutt has more than 100 years of collective experience dealing with medical malpractice and birth injury cases. Located in Baltimore, Maryland, the firm represents residents in Maryland and Washington, D.C. If you have a birth injury or other medical malpractice issue, contact us today for a free consultation.

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