Mother Died During Childbirth – Family Blames Doctor
A mother who died during childbirth was not properly warned by the NHS about the risks of natural delivery, an inquest has heard.
Lucy Howell, 32, passed away after suffering complications during the birth of her second child, Pippa at Royal Hampshire County Hospital in March 2021.
The mother-of-two had previously given birth to her eldest daughter Rosie via a caesarean section, which required special surgery to repair.
But her family have now claimed Ms Howell was given ‘conflicting’ advice about the risks of a natural delivery and are demanding answers from Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
The coroner who is investigating Ms Howell’s case has also criticised the trust, and said it is yet to provide a ‘candid’ explanation over the circumstances of her death.
It is hoped a full inquest will establish whether she would have survived if she had chosen an alternative mode of birth – such as a C-section.
The hearing came during the same week that a damning maternity report found more than 200 babies and nine mothers died after failings at Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital Trust.
The Ockenden report found mothers were blamed for their babies’ deaths, that infants’ deaths were often not investigated and grieving parents were not listened to.
The pre-inquest review was told Mrs Howell, of Bishop’s Waltham, Hants, went into labour in March 2021 and was admitted to Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester to be induced.
Tragically Ms Howell suffered a ruptured uterus during delivery and, while her daughter survived after being born in her stomach, she passed away on March 12.
Her family were told that the post-mortem gave the cause of death as a uterine rupture and amniotic fluid embolism.
An investigation was then launched by Hampshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
The hearing was told that following the birth of her first daughter in 2017 Mrs Howell had to have surgery to repair scarring.
Her family believe this may have made her vulnerable to having a natural delivery and have questioned the advice she was given ahead of the birth of Pippa.
Winchester Coroner’s Court heard it is disputed whether Mrs Howell was given sufficient information to make an informed decision on whether she should have given birth naturally having had a C-section previously.
Vanessa Cashman, the family’s lawyer, told the pre-inquest review: ‘She was given conflicting advice – if it can be called that.’
Area Coroner Rosamund Rhodes-Kemp told the hearing she felt the statements supplied by the Trust so far did not provide a full explanation of what happened.
Mrs Rhodes-Kemp said: ‘For the family, the Trust have to show they have learnt from what happened.
‘But they can only learn from it if there has been an open and candid explanation of what happened. The statements I have seen do not reflect that at the moment.
‘The statements do not reflect learning and full understanding into exactly what’s happened.’
Mrs Rhodes-Kemp said she now has questions about Mrs Howell’s antenatal care, her labour and whether Mrs Howell was given sufficient information to make an informed decision.
‘The advice given is not huge to women who’ve had a caesarean,’ she said. ‘This was a rare situation. There are issues regarding the management of the labour.
‘The starting point is: should there have been a labour and who said what to whom. The second issue is: was the labour managed appropriately given the risk?
‘I don’t think anyone could have done anything regarding resuscitation. But I’m keen to understand how we got to this point, whether it could have been avoided.
‘I think there are issues regarding the labour and whether this could all have been avoided had she not had a vaginal birth.’
Mrs Howell’s widower Matthew – who is bringing up their two daughters alone – said: ‘The shock and pain of Lucy’s death has been unimaginable.
‘She was a devoted mother and a wonderful person who is sorely missed every day by so many people.
‘Lucy’s family and I have many questions about the circumstances surrounding Lucy’s death. We hope that the inquest will help provide us with answers to those questions.’
Clinical negligence lawyer Emma Beeson, of law firm Penningtons, who is representing the Howell family said: ‘This marks an important moment in time for assessing maternity services in this country.
‘Mrs Howell’s family have raised a number of concerns in respect of the management of Mrs Howell’s pregnancy and her labour and it is clear that these have been taken very seriously by the Coroner who is conducting a thorough investigation into this matter.’
The full inquest will be held later this year.
A fundraiser for a memorial at Winnall Moors nature reserve in Winchester – where Mrs Howell enjoyed taking her daughter – raised more than £10,000, well above the target of £3,000.
Mrs Howell worked at consultancy agency Soils Limited as an Health and Safety Coordinator and Geo-Environmental Engineer after joining as a graduate in 2011.