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Doctor admits mum of tragic baby should have had Caesarean

By Cate McCurry

Published 02/09/2016

Barry and Michelle Rocks, the parents of baby Cara Rocks
Barry and Michelle Rocks, the parents of baby Cara Rocks

A doctor who cared for a mother-to-be has admitted she should have given the woman a caesarean section weeks before the baby was stillborn.

The revelation came minutes before Magherafelt mother Michelle Rocks fled the Belfast court room in tears as the circumstances leading up to the death of baby Cara were laid bare.

Giving evidence on day three of the landmark inquest at Belfast Coroner's Court, the middle grade doctor apologised to Mrs Rocks and her husband Barry for the distress and pain they endured following the tragic death of their baby.

The five-day inquest is the first here to focus solely on the examination of a stillbirth.

Dr Rachel O'Flaherty, a doctor who specialises in obstetrics and gynaecology, first met Mrs Rocks when she was 36 weeks' pregnant in May 2013.

During this appointment, the 38-year-old from Magherafelt said she was adamant she wanted a C-section. However, Dr O'Flaherty told the mother she was "more than capable" of delivering the baby herself.

Barrister Fiona Doherty, representing the baby's family, said her decision left Mrs Rocks in tears. However, Dr O'Flaherty claimed in her statement to the coroner that Mrs Rocks was still undecided about her mode of delivery during this meeting and that a final decision was made at the next appointment.

Ms Doherty pressed the medic on the policies surrounding delivery methods and whether expectant mothers were steered in the direction of natural birth, though this was denied by the doctor.

"Is it plausible in light of these circumstances that in fact at the end of the appointment the plan for mode of delivery had not been written in the notes as it seems that a plan for a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean) was made," she said.

"That fits in perfectly with what Mrs Rocks says.

"She said that you made a decision for VBAC. This is a woman who was asking for a C-section all the way through. She wanted a C-section because of her experience of her two previous pregnancies. It was quite clear she had been through the various options and she knew what suited her best.

"You told her she was more than capable of delivering the baby herself. She was quite clear her request for a C-section was refused. She was in tears, she was very upset."

Later, on June 5, Mrs Rocks was sent home by Dr O'Flaherty after presenting at the Causeway Hospital in Coleraine at 38 weeks' pregnant with her baby in a transverse position - meaning it would not be possible for her to have a natural birth.

She begged for a C-section but was turned down, the inquest previously heard.

Although the medic did not see Mrs Rocks that day, she admitted that looking back would have taken a different decision.

"In retrospect I would have kept her in," she said. "If she had asked for a C-section, that would have been arranged. At that stage I would have admitted her at transverse lie."

The court heard how Dr O'Flaherty saw the mum-to-be over a week before she went into labour on June 26 and then again shortly after the baby was still born.

Ms Doherty put it to the medic that the incident left her "upset". "I think everyone was very upset," Dr O'Flaherty replied. The hearing continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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