Case Studies: Healthcare

Stillbirth at Royal Jubilee Maternity Hospital Preventable

The stillbirth of Thea Webb-Wright, due to infection, on 29th July 2017 at the Royal Jubilee maternity Hospital was preventable according the findings of Belfast Coroner, Maria Dougan. (BBC report here).

Patrick Mullarkey of O’Reilly Stewart Solicitors Healthcare acted on behalf of the parents of the stillborn girl during the course of the coronial investigation, culminating in a hearing which took place in October 2023.

Delivering her narrative verdict in the complex and emotive Inquest on Friday 3rd November 2023, the Coroner concluded that Thea would have been born alive but for missed opportunities in the treatment of Thea’s mother, Mrs Christine Wright, and in particular in the gathering of medical information and in the provision of treatment.

Mrs Wright had a known history of urinary tract infections (UTIs) prior to becoming pregnant with Thea and, notwithstanding the fact that this information was relayed to the hospital by the general practitioner at the time of referral for antenatal care, the booking midwife failed to acknowledge or indeed note the risk.

There was a failure to provide Mrs Wright with appropriate information on maternal and fetal risk and when UTIs subsequently presented in the course of the pregnancy, there was a failure to treat appropriately. Had the risk been appreciated by attending midwifery and medical staff Mrs Wright would  have been under management of the consultant throughout her pregnancy and she would have been tested monthly for infection.

The Belfast Trust conceded that on the third occasion of such infection in pregnancy, Mrs Wright ought to have received a regime of antibiotic care with the intention of preventing, or at the very least suppressing, any future infection. Due to failures to ensure that Mrs Wrights records remained up to date after her marriage, testing, which had been undertaken and which had demonstrated infection,  was not linked to her medical records.

Moreover, when Mrs Wright presented in May 2017, with symptoms suggestive of infection, the Coroner concluded, after consideration of the expert evidence, that Mrs Wright ought to have been admitted to care for more intensive treatment.

Had these measures been attended to then it would have been expected that either the fatal infection would not have occurred or, had the infection occurred, that it would have been successfully treated before presenting a risk to Thea.

The Court noted that the Trust had acknowledged the findings and had made recommendations to  avoid a similar situation arising again in the care of an expectant mother.

The parents of Thea, David and Christine Wright, welcomed the Coroner’s verdict and expressed the hope that by shining a light on the circumstances of their loss, other families might be spared similar misfortune in the future.


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