Losing a child is devastating for a family at any stage. This grief can be compounded when a seemingly straightforward pregnancy ends in stillbirth. In comparison to similar European countries, the rates of stillbirth in the UK are high and have not decreased significantly in the last 20 years. In fact, the NHS still reports that about 1 in every 235 births are stillbirths.
What options are available for the family to obtain answers?
When a family is looking for answers, there are a number of different routes they could take. If the care given to the mother during her pregnancy is regarded by the family as being sub-optimal, they can raise a complaint with the healthcare provider which will be investigated. The healthcare provider may choose to conduct their own internal investigation.
Frustratingly, whilst a government consultation to extend the powers of coroners to investigate full-term stillbirths was held in March 2019, there has been no investigational outcome as yet. As the law stands therefore, coroners do not have jurisdiction to investigate any stillbirths, which may leave some bereaved parents looking down another avenue to work out why they lost their baby.
Can a stillbirth compensation claim be pursued?
We often receive enquiries from families as to whether a stillbirth compensation claim can be pursued.
Strictly speaking, the law takes a rather unsympathetic line and considers that until a child is born they are not a legal person. As such, under the law, the parents of a stillborn child cannot pursue a claim on the child’s behalf in the same way that they would have been able to do had the child passed away after birth.
Instead, any claim tends to have to focus upon the pain and suffering of the mother in giving birth to the stillborn child as well as any psychological injuries suffered by the parents, and any past or future loss of earnings if the mother could not return to work after the stillbirth on account of the grief she suffered, for example.
Whilst the current law provides no minimum bereavement award to the parents of stillborn babies, provided the healthcare provider is found to have breached its duty and through an act or omission caused the child to be stillborn, it may still be possible to claim damages to go some way to compensating you for the pain and suffering you have endured and for other financial expenditure you may have incurred along the way.
Why choose Trethowans?
Our team understand that the grief you experience is likely to have a profound effect on you now, and in the future. Our experienced clinical negligence solicitors can help to guide you through the legal process and help you to receive compensation for the loss you have suffered. Whilst we recognise that no amount of money can take away the pain, a professionally investigated claim may help to bring you the closure you deserve.
Our solicitors will aim to work out whether actionable mistakes were made and whether the decisions taken by medical staff were unreasonable by listening to your story and gathering the appropriate evidence. They will ensure open lines of communication along the way and adopt a realistic approach in pursuing such a stillbirth compensation claim.
For a non-obligation consultation with one of our experienced clinical negligence solicitors, please contact a member of our team on 0800 2800 421 or via our online contact form.