Verdict of medical misadventure at inquest into stillbirth at Drogheda hospital

Mother of child wanted Caesarean birth and was not happy about being induced, inquest told

Pamela Clarke said one midwife at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda disagreed with how frequently she was experiencing contractions. Photograph: Alan Betson

Pamela Clarke said one midwife at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda disagreed with how frequently she was experiencing contractions. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

A woman whose daughter was stillborn at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda has told an inquest that she cannot understand how a perfectly healthy baby could die in what should have been the safest place.

Louth County Coroner Ronan Maguire returned a verdict of medical misadventure in the case of Willow Clarke, who was born at 38 weeks on August 15th, 2018.

Her mother, Pamela Clarke told the inquest she had wanted a Caesarean birth and was not happy about being induced. She was referred by Cavan General Hospital to Our Lady of Lourdes after being diagnosed with gestational diabetes, and thus considered a high-risk pregnancy.

Mrs Clarke said the birth of two of her three older children had been extremely traumatic and she was very anxious that Willow would be delivered by Caesarean, but she felt she was not being listened to.

She said one midwife disagreed with how frequently she was experiencing contractions and she feared the equipment was not reading them correctly because of her abdomen was enlarged due to water retention.

‘Frightened’

Ms Clarke said she started to panic when her baby was not moving around, though a midwife told her the child was asleep. “I’ve never felt so frightened, or alone,” she said, adding that nobody explained what was happening.

She said she kept shouting “Why aren’t you putting me to sleep? Why are you wasting time?”

Throughout the night, she said she had to listen to the cries of newborn babies.

Mrs Clarke claimed that when talking to her and her husband, consultant obstetrician Vineta Ciprike had told them the hospital protocol was not followed in respect of the monitoring of the baby.

Mrs Clarke also said the consultant had told her that only two midwifes were on duty for more than 20 patients.

However¸ the now 39-year-old said she and her husband have been trying unsuccessfully for another pregnancy since early 2019, and that she still cannot be near expectant mothers or babies.

Dr Ciprike, who expressed sympathy to the Clarkes on their loss, said the risk of a still birth was four to seven times higher in gestational diabetes cases, and that Mrs Clarke also had a high body mass index.

Complicated

She had a very good chance of normal vaginal delivery, the obstetrician said, and that sections are complicated for patients with diabetes.

The obstetrician told the Clarkes’ solicitor Roger Murray that she had written down that Mrs Clarke had consented to induction, though he put it to her that there was no written record that informed consent was obtained.

Pathologist Dr Emma Doyle said Willow was a normally formed stillborn baby who had died due to an acute hypoxic episode, but the exact cause of death remain unexplained.

Miriam Kelly, quality and safety manager at Our Lady of Lourdes, said four changes to rules had been introduced after the death, including guidelines on foetal monitoring for patients with gestational diabetes.