Belfast Telegraph

Midwife at the centre of probe into how a five-day-old baby died will not face prosecution

By Joanne Sweeney

The midwife at the centre of investigations into how a five-day-old baby died from brain damage will not face prosecution, an inquest has learnt.

Yesterday it was also revealed at Matthew White’s inquest that medical experts agreed that if the midwife had appropriately assessed the onset of the Co Antrim woman’s labour, his mother could have expected “the safe delivery of a live, healthy child.”

The news was revealed at the start of the second inquest into how the newborn died from brain damage at Antrim Area Hospital on November 8, 2006.

The first inquest into the baby’s death from Hypoxic Ischaemic Encephalopathy — a condition which arises from the brain being deprived of oxygen —was suspended in December, 2007 after it was learnt that police were investigating the death of a second baby from brain damage in the care of the same nurse, midwife Heather McComish, at the same hospital.

Matthew White's parents, medical doctor David White and school principal Karen White, received an apology from senior coroner John Leckey over them having to wait nearly eight years for their son's inquest.

Opening the inquest once again, Mr Leckey described the intervening period as an “unacceptable long time” but he explained that he had only been made aware of the decision by the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) in June not to continue with its investigations after police had referred the case to them in 2007.

The coroner told the couple, whose family home was listed as Steeple Road, Antrim at the time of their son’s death, that he regretted the amount of time that it had taken for the inquest to be heard again but he had quickly organised the second inquest on being informed of the PPS decision.

The inquest further heard that while two medical experts agreed that that the cause of death was down to Hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy, they could not be certain as to why and when it started.

In a jointly agreed statement from two medical experts which was read out in the form of 10 questions and answers, it agreed that Mrs White’s active labour began sometime between 11pm and 1.30am on the morning of November 3, 2006 and that the baby’s heart reading in a cardiotograph (CTG) gave no cause for concern when it was first taken around 6pm the previous evening.

It was agreed that Mrs White was having Braxton Hicks — contradictions without pain — around 9.22pm that evening but that a subsequent CTG reading at 11.10pm did show signs that the baby was in distress while the mother complained of having severe cramps and back pain.

The use of Prostaglandin gel to induce labour — which hyperstimulates the uterus — as the possible cause of the loss of oxygen to the baby was viewed as being “in the realms of speculation only” by the medical experts.

The inquest further heard that the woman’s admission to the labour ward was correctly managed.

At hearing.

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