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Mother must have choice of delivery options for her baby

Although it is right that a doctor is entitled to prefer one of alternative approaches to delivery of a baby and to advise a mother of their preference and why, the choice should always be the mother’s and not the doctor’s.This was stated by Assistant Coroner Bridget Dolan in the Inquest into the death of Leilani Chute which concluded on 30 June 2016.

Andrew Harrison represented the family at the Inquest during which the obstetric registrar who delivered Leilani admitted that he did not discuss fully the option of caesarean section, preferring a vaginal delivery or instrumental delivery, thereby depriving Leilani’s mother Katherine of an informed choice of delivery(the Consent process).

It was found that Leilani should have been delivered 26 minutes earlier by caesarean section and if that had happened she would not have suffered a hypoxic brain injury and would have survived.

Whilst the Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust undertook a Root Cause Analysis and identified errors and lessons to be learnt (in particular relating to training on interpretation of foetal heart rate monitor readings), the Inquest identified further shortcomings, in particular the lack of a policy of consent in the obstetrics department. The assistant coroner ordered the Trust to look into those issues and report back their findings for her consideration.

The Inquest took place less than a year after Leilani’s death and was a traumatic experience for parents, family and relatives who attended. It was particularly upsetting for them to endure three days of evidence and to hear that Leilani could have been delivered earlier and would have survived.

Andrew was interviewed by Neil Pringle on BBC Radio Sussex about the Inquest on 6 July.