THE family of a disabled teenager left severely brain damaged when her mother gave birth to her on their bathroom floor have lost their court case against a GP who told her she wasn’t in labour.
Hannah Parkes, now aged 15, was starved of oxygen when her mother Mandy Parkes delivered her prematurely without medical help at her home in February 1996, Sheffield High Court heard.
Mandy, who was around 31 weeks pregnant, had been complaining of sharp stomach pains during the afternoon before the birth – but when her GP Dr John Mann was called to her home, Mandy claimed he told her she only had stomach cramps and that the baby was ‘fine’.
Hannah’s parents brought a claim for clinical negligence on behalf of their daughter against the 57-year-old doctor.They claimed Dr Mann was negligent for failing to recognise Mandy, now 44, was in labour, or about to go into labour, and that he should have arranged for her to be sent to hospital immediately.
The teenager has cerebral palsy, attends a special school and needs to be cared for by her mum and dad.
Handing down a written judgement, Judge Mr Justice Openshaw said although he had ‘great sympathy’ for Hannah and her family, he found that Dr Mann was not negligent on the day of her birth.
He said: “If every doctor was required to send to hospital every patient who presented with any possibility of pre-term delivery, this would encourage defensive medicine of the most undesirable kind and maternity units would be overwhelmed. Dr Mann was quite right to consider that the risks of premature delivery were so small they did not require him immediately to send Mrs Parkes to hospital.”
The judge also said Dr Mann, who works at the Blue Dykes Surgery in Clay Cross, Chesterfield, was right not to perform a more personal examination on the mum-to-be.
Mandy told the court she began to feel unwell at around dinnertime on February 20.
“I thought it was a tummy bug, with stomach cramps and sharp pains,” she said.
Mandy told her sister, Tammy Cutts, about the pains and she phoned for Dr Mann to come to the house on Brook Street, Clay Cross.
The judge found Mandy had one abdominal pain before the phone call at 5.05pm, and two pains afterwards before the GP’s arrival at 6.10pm.
He said Dr Mann found Mandy ‘seemingly at ease’ and watching the TV.
“He said repeatedly that if there was a real or significant risk of these pains being labour pains, he would have sent her to hospital,” Mr Justice Openshaw added.
“I have no doubt that he would. Dr Mann was an excellent witness.”
Mandy gave birth to Hannah on the floor in the upstairs bathroom just over half an hour after Dr Mann left.
An ambulance was called to take the baby to Chesterfield Royal Infirmary, where she was resuscitated.
“This is a very sad case,” the judge said.