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Baby dies after ‘excessive force’ during forceps delivery

A coroner has urged ministers to revisit plans to make it possible to hold inquests into babies that are stillborn after a baby died due to “excessive force” during an attempted forceps delivery.

Senior coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray has written to the Ministry of Justice after she was forced to stop hearing evidence into the death of baby Frederick Terry, known as Freddie, who died under the care of the Mid and South Essex Hospitals Trust on 16 November, last year.

An inquest into his death was started in September where Freddie was found to have died after suffering hypovolaemic shock as a result of losing a fifth of his blood when his skull was fractured during a traumatic birth attempt. In a report on the case the coroner said: “Baby Frederick Joseph Terry was delivered by caesarean section, after a failed forceps attempted delivery on 16 November 2019 and death was confirmed after 40 minutes of resuscitation attempts."

"The evidence showed that baby Freddie's very serious scalp and brain injuries were sustained during the failed forceps attempted delivery and, but for these, baby Freddie would have survived as a perfectly formed, healthy baby."

The coroner said the injuries he sustained implied “an excessive degree of force” in the application of the forceps, which are curved metal instruments that fit around a baby’s head and are designed to help deliver the baby.

The inquest had to be stopped from hearing any more evidence because coroners are not able to investigate stillborn babies.

As part of her report, the coroner said: “It would have been helpful for there to have been, during the course of the inquest, an exploration, in the course of evidence, of the treatment and care provided to baby Freddie and his parents at the time of delivery.

"Currently there is no legislation to cover the holding of a coroner’s inquest into a stillbirth. In March 2019, the Government issued a consultation on coronial investigations of stillbirths It would be helpful for this important topic to be progressed, whatever the ultimate jurisdictional decisions.”

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Source: The Independent, 17 November 2020


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