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Baby death raises questions over maternity care

Posted on 20th May 2021 in Medical Negligence

Posted by

Stuart Bramley

Partner and Solicitor
Baby death raises questions over maternity care

Despite a low-risk pregnancy, Beth and Dan Wankiewicz say their baby son Clay died last year, shortly after his birth at Doncaster Royal Infirmary, from multiple skull fractures.

Beth Wankiewicz was admitted to hospital last July, but after a day of labour her baby had still not been born. With no consultant doctor on site, a junior doctor made two attempts to deliver the baby with forceps, after getting advice on the phone.

Dan remembers the second attempt with forceps being much more vigorous "which was a bit of a shock". The family say there was a further delay before they had a Caesarean section. Their baby had to be pushed back up the birth canal into the womb for the C-section to be performed.

The following day they say a midwife told them she was being pressurised by other staff to say Clay had been stillborn, but she was sure he had been born alive, and she had heard a heartbeat. The family now believe this was to avoid scrutiny and the need for a coroner's inquest, which doesn't happen with still births.

A BBC investigation has now found that in 2016 a review of services by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists identified serious patient safety concerns within maternity services at the trust, but it had not been published, with maternity services at both hospitals run by the trust are currently rated as Requires Improvement by the hospital regulator.

Following a 2015 maternity scandal at Morecambe Bay, in which 11 babies and one mother died, a report by Dr Bill Kirkup recommended that trusts openly report the findings of any external investigation. An NHS England spokesperson said: "All independent reviews should be made available to relevant health commissioners and regulators...and [we] expect trusts to take prompt action to address appropriate recommendations."


Co-head of our Medical Negligence team, Stuart Bramley, commented, “If ever a death needed a Coroner’s inquest it is this one. The BBC report into poor Clay’s passing, if accurate, is a shocking read. The use of forceps by a junior clinician, the comment by the midwife that the baby had in fact been born alive, and the unavailability of a Consultant for a delivery as complicated as this all point to matters that really need thorough investigation and if there is to be no inquest, I do hope the HSIB report will all the questions that Beth and Dan must be asking.

I was particularly concerned to read about the attempt at performing the Zavanelli Technique – pushing the baby back up the birth canal to get it into the right position for a Caesarean that hadn’t been planned in the first place. I am told by obstetricians that this risky manoeuvre needs a senior clinician and even then, it is attempted far more often than it is reported, presumably because of the high failure rate.

Clay’s family really do require a thorough, detailed investigation into every aspect of this tragedy. They will never get their little boy back; but at least they deserve to know the truth.”


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