Planning a family is an exciting time and the UK is considered one of the safest places in the world to give birth.
For a comparatively small number of families however, what should be a very special time turns into every parent’s worst nightmare and the unthinkable happens.
How common are neonatal deaths?
Losing a child is a deeply traumatic experience, particularly when a baby dies within the neonatal period for no immediately apparent reason.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS) show that there were 2.8 neonatal deaths for every 1,000 live births in England and Wales in 2019. In most cases, the death of a baby within 28 days of their birth is unavoidable.
Causes of a neonatal death
Unavoidable health complications can sadly lead to a baby’s death within just a few short weeks of their birth. These incidents can be a result of one or more health related issues including:
- Abnormalities of the placenta
- A genetic defect
- A haemorrhage before or during labour
- A pre-term birth
- Problems with the umbilical cord
- Pre-existing diabetes
Coping with the loss following a neonatal death
We understand the traumatising effect on parents, and wider family, when a baby dies a short time after their birth. The loss is devastating and can intensify when there are no answers given as to why this has happened.
Gaining support following a neonatal death
No one can prepare for the loss of a loved one. When parents unexpectedly lose a baby within the first few weeks of their life, a whirlwind of mixed emotions can make navigating the initial weeks and months very difficult.
Several charities are available to support parents following a traumatic loss, including leading neonatal death charity Sands. Talking to specialists, and other grieving families, can help to ease the pain a little.
Grieving the loss of a baby is not an experience that parents simply ‘get over’, it lasts a lifetime. Being surrounded with the right support can help.
Lack of senior medical staff
Some preventable neonatal deaths are caused due to the failure of the hospital involved to recognise that the care of mother and baby should have been escalated to a senior professional during the pregnancy and / or birth.
Sometimes the appropriate escalation does not take place because a senior medical colleague is unavailable leaving mother and baby in the care of a junior doctor.
In situations where tests have returned unusual results or circumstances have taken a turn for the worst for example, it is critical for medical care to be provided by an appropriately experienced member of the medical team.
Serious incident reviews
For some families, instincts tell them that more could have been done to prevent their baby’s death.
Parents are often advised that their baby’s death was simply one of those things.
This can make the grieving process more difficult, particularly if a pregnancy has been normal throughout, leaving families with no reason to explain the significant and sudden loss of their child.
Referrals to a coroner
Following an unexpected and unexplained death, a referral is usually made to a coroner and an inquest into what happened takes place.
It is critical for parents to understand what caused their baby’s untimely death. Having all the answers can help the grieving process, giving families the opportunity to make sense of a devastating and senseless incident.
Legal support during the inquest process
Inquests can take some time and will undoubtedly be upsetting for families as the coroner seeks to identify a cause of death.
Instructing neonatal death specialist solicitors to represent you during the inquest process will ensure that the right questions are asked to get to the root of what really happened.
Neonatal death compensation for preventable incidents
Some neonatal deaths could have been prevented had the appropriate level of medical care been provided. Parents often instinctively know that more could have been done to save their baby.
In these circumstances, compensation is available if the baby’s death is proved to have been a result of medical care that fell below acceptable standards.
When to pursue compensation
Neonatal deaths that could have been avoided commonly occur due to one or more of the following medical failings:
- Mother and baby were not monitored closely during the pregnancy and birth
- Medical staff have failed to make a timely diagnosis and failed to deliver the appropriate treatment in time
- Delays in medical intervention when it was required
- A failure to escalate the care of mother and baby to a consultant following unusual test or scan results
In circumstances when it is believed that a baby’s death could have been avoided, neonatal death compensation should be sought.
Accessing compensation requires proof that medical staff could and should have delivered better care. The legal process involves a thorough investigation into what happened to identify if better care would have resulted in a different outcome.
What is covered by neonatal death compensation?
The loss of a baby causes lasting psychological injuries as parents come to terms with the significant loss knowing that their child’s life should have been saved.
A claim for compensation involves legal and medical experts investigating the course of events in order to prove that medical negligence led to a baby’s death. This provides families with answers about what happened to their child, answers that may not be forthcoming from the hospital involved.
Neonatal death compensation is available in recognition of parents’ bereavement and compensates them for the psychological injury suffered as a consequence.
Justice following a neonatal death
It is a sad reality that often neonatal deaths that could have been avoided are not recognised as such by the hospital involved. This denies parents the answers and justice that they deserve and makes learning from mistakes impossible for the hospital believed to be responsible.
Choosing the right legal team for you
Going through an inquest and subsequent neonatal death claim for compensation can feel overwhelming for families who are grieving. Instructing solicitors with specialist expertise is one consideration. Choosing lawyers who make you feel at ease is vital.
Understanding the process
Bereaved families will naturally have several questions about what happened to their baby. Dealing with the right lawyers will remove the additional stress of going through the inquest process and subsequent compensation claim.
The right team will be transparent about what to expect every step of this difficult journey and will provide both legal expertise and compassion.
Why families choose Diane Rostron following a neonatal death
Our team comprises both medical and legal experts. We are more than lawyers. We are parents and have members of the team who have suffered a neonatal death so understand first hand what families go through.
We meticulously investigate medical records to find the answers that appear elusive to many families to identify whether medical staff have followed best practice.
Offering in excess of 25 years’ experience, the team at Diane Rostron has a strong track record of securing justice for families in the most difficult of circumstances.
Every family deserves to know exactly what happened leading to their baby’s neonatal death. We are here to listen and to help.