Parents whose newborn baby daughter suffocated during her first breast feed leaving her permanently disabled lose their fight for millions in NHS compensation
- Julia Geis-Clements and Lee Clements claimed midwife gave inadequate advice
- Daughter Carys cannot walk or talk and now needs 24hr care for rest of her life
- Today, the judge said ‘no one is to blame’ for the ‘unexplained’ tragedy
- Advice the midwife gave to the couple was ‘logical with a proper basis in fact’
A couple whose baby daughter suffocated during her first breast feed have suffered heart-rending defeat in their fight for millions in NHS compensation.
Photos of Julia Geis-Clements suckling her daughter, Cerys, minutes after her birth were ‘almost unbearably poignant’, said top judge, Mrs Justice May.
She had been placed in her mother’s arms for the first time after her birthing pool delivery, so they could have ‘skin to skin contact’.
Daughter Cerys, in a image her mother shared on a JustGiving page in 2014. Cerys suffered from profound oxygen starvation and will now require 24-hour care for the rest of her life
But disaster struck when Cerys suddenly stopped breathing less than an hour after her July 2012 birth at Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital.
Mrs Geis-Clements, 39, and her financier husband, Lee, 41, claimed they had been given negligent advice on breast feeding by a midwife.
But, dashing their hopes today, the judge said that ‘no one is to blame’ for the ‘unexplained’ tragedy that will forever blight Cerys’s life.
The family’s lawyers claimed the couple should have been warned to keep Cerys’s airway clear as she was pressed against her mother’s breast.
Julia Geis-Clements and her husband Lee Clements pictured outside of the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Today, the couple lost their fight for compensation from the NHS
The profound oxygen starvation she suffered means she cannot walk or talk and will need 24-hour care for the rest of her life.
Senior midwife, Clare Nicholls, faced claims that she negligently failed to warn the couple to keep one of Cerys’s nostrils free during her first feed.
She was also accused of giving the couple ‘false reassurance’ by telling them that Cerys would wriggle if she was having trouble breathing.
But, exonerating Ms Nicholls, the judge said midwives ‘cannot say nothing’ when anxious new parents ask about breast feeding their babies.
The advice she gave the couple was ‘logical with a proper basis in fact’ and there was nothing ‘irresponsible or unreasonable’ about it.
The family’s lawyers also claimed Ms Nicholls should have returned to monitor the ‘exhausted’ mum 10 minutes into the feed.
But the judge said the midwife had correctly positioned Cerys on her mother’s breast and seen her start to feed normally.
‘It was not wrong to leave them alone together for that length of time,’
ruled the judge. ‘Especially as she was only some 10 metres away, within call and able to
respond immediately.’ ‘The precise cause or causes of extremely rare events of sudden untoward post-natal collapse in newborns remains unknown,’ she added.
And it had not been proved that the cause of Cerys’s collapse ‘was obstruction of her mouth and nose by her mother’s breast tissue.’ The judge said: ‘The photographs of the new family shortly after Cerys’s birth, showing her mother’s joy and delight at her new baby, are almost unbearably poignant given what was to happen just minutes later.
Julia Geis-Clements pictured court, the marketing manager from Denham in Buckinghamshire sued the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust on Cerys’ behalf
‘It is impossible not to have the very greatest sympathy for Cerys and her parents’.
But she added: ‘On my findings…no one is to blame for Cerys’s collapse shortly after her birth or for her disabilities.’
In some cases there is ‘no apparent cause at all’ of sudden post-natal collapse and what made Cerys stop breathing ‘remains unexplained’.
And she concluded: ‘The evidence has not demonstrated on the balance of probabilities that Cerys was suffocated by her mother’s breast.’
The court heard earlier that Mrs Geis-Clements had attended ante-natal classes, but Cerys was her first baby and she had no experience of breast feeding.
She said that, after Cerys seemed to doze off during the feed, ‘she did not want to disturb her as she thought that she was sleeping.’
Twenty five minutes into the feed, her husband rushed off to find the midwife but, when she returned, she could feel no pulse on Cerys.
‘In fact Cerys had suffered an episode of hypoxia which had caused her severe brain damage,’ said the family’s barrister, Angus Moon QC.
Mrs Geis-Clements, a marketing manager, from Denham, Bucks, sued Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust on Cerys’ behalf.
But NHS lawyers argued it was a case of ‘random post-natal sudden collapse’ which could not have been foreseen and in which negligence played no part.
The family’s lawyers said Cerys’s claim was of ‘maximum value’, but Mrs Justice May’s ruling today means she will go without a penny.
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