Birthing pool baby died from breathing in water


A BABY boy who was delivered in a birthing pool died three days later as a result of an "acute near-drowning event" after he breathed in water, an inquest has heard.

Harry Eccles, Lakeview, Virginia, Co Cavan was just three days, 9½ hours old when he died at the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Dublin, following delivery at Cavan General Hospital with the aid of two midwives, Dublin City Coroner's Court heard yesterday.

When Gina Eccles (24), gave birth to Harry at the midwifery unit at Cavan General Hospital on February 26th, 2006, the infant was blue, unresponsive to tactile stimulation and made no efforts to breathe on his own.

He was ventilated and transferred to the National Maternity Hospital later that day, where he died on March 1st.

Dublin city coroner Dr Brian Farrell said he accepted the view of pathologist Dr Peter Kelehan that Harry died of a near-drowning event due to aspiration of fresh water with resulting low sodium levels (hyponatremia) and profoundly insufficient levels of oxygen in blood or tissue (hypoxia.)

Dr Farrell acknowledged that the evidence at the inquest did not "completely outrule" a "prenatal hypoxic event" (an event prior to birth which deprived the baby of oxygen), but that "on the balance of probabilities, death is due to an acute near-drowning event".

Dr Kelehan was unable to identify any pre-existing metabolic disease or pre-disposing condition that would account for the baby's death.

Dr Farrell recorded a verdict of death by misadventure.

Dr Alan Finan, consultant paediatrician attached to Cavan General, who treated Harry after his birth, told a previous hearing of the inquest that he believed the baby had experienced "a neurological insult before delivery".

The coroner also endorsed the 19 recommendations made following a review of water births in Cavan and Drogheda midwifery-led units in the aftermath of Harry's death and made a further recommendation that the unit or the HSE should consider reviewing consent procedures in relation to water births.

The inquest heard that while Ms Eccles had signed a consent form to give birth in the midwifery-led unit of the hospital (one of the options of which included water birth), she did not sign a specific consent form consenting to having a water birth. Instead she gave verbal consent to a water birth upon arrival at the unit, the day before Harry's birth.

Siobhán Eccles gave evidence yesterday that her daughter had never been informed by the hospital of the risks involved in water births and would never have "gone down that road" had she been so informed.

Mary O'Reilly, clinical midwifery manager at Cavan General, confirmed that water births had been temporarily suspended at the hospital and that there was no written consent form for water births.

She would be "highly surprised" if Ms Eccles had been given no information regarding the risks (of water birth), but she could not comment on the individual case as she did not hold her current position at the time of Harry's birth.

Counsel for Cavan General Adrienne Egan said mothers were told that if complications arose they would be removed from the water to the adjoining consultant-led unit.

There is a conflict in the evidence as to the length of time between the delivery of Harry's head and the delivery of his body (when the baby was brought to the surface), the court also heard.