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'Hospital panic led to boy left brain damaged', court hears

PUBLISHED: 17:03 26 November 2010

Newham General Hospital

Newham General Hospital

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A TWIN boy for whom "panic" in a hospital delivery room in the minutes before his birth spelt severe brain damage and a lifetime of dependence on others has won the right to millions in compensation from the NHS.

Judge John Leighton-Williams QC described scenes of chaos at Newham University Hospital as midwives tried to decide what to do before one of them rushed to find a doctor - who arrived too late to save Macmillan Goncalves from acute disability.

Had Macmillan, the second of twin boys, been born just a few minutes earlier in January 1996, he would have escaped unharmed. But, as it is, he is stricken by tetraplegic cerebral palsy and will never be able to lead an independent life.

His parents, Antonio and Delfina, of Vanguard Close, Plaistow, were at London’s High Court to hear the judge rule that hospital staff had been negligent - a decision which guarantees Macmillan multi-million-pound compensation to cover the enormous costs of a lifetime’s care.

Judge Leighton-Williams said it was an “unsatisfactory feature” of the case that Newham University Hospital Trust had failed to produce medical records of Macmillan’s birth in court, saying they had been lost, but not explaining how or why that happened.

He said the loss of such crucial records was “highly unusual” and “would appear to have resulted from negligence on someone’s part” - however, he rejected the family’s accusations that the evidence had been “deliberately suppressed”.

Macmillan’s mother, who has four other children - including Macmillan’s twin, Maxwell - had told the court of the sense of rising anxiety in the delivery room as her baby’s heart beat slowed and it became clear he was in severe distress in the womb.

Macmillan was in the breech - legs first - position and the judge said that, at some point, his umbilical cord collapsed and he began to suffer oxygen starvation.

“There was panic in the delivery room”, said the judge, as midwives delayed the critical decision on what to do before one of them went to find an obstetrician.

Once the doctor arrived, everything ran smoothly and Macmillan was swiftly delivered by Caesarean section. However, the judge said the delay of eight-10 minutes was all it took to cause the baby permanent brain damage which will forever blight his life.

The judge concluded: “I am satisfied that with proper care, with the obstetric registrar present early on, the ensuing problems recognised early, and the team ready to swing into action when the emergency arose, Macmillan...would have been delivered unharmed”.

Unless final settlement terms are now agreed, the amount of Macmillan’s damages payout will have to be assessed at another court hearing. He is entitled to compensation for, amongst other things, his pain and suffering, lost earnings and the costs of his past and future care.

Damages awards approaching £10m are now common in such cases.

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