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Medical tribunal hears harrowing account of baby decapitated in womb

Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.
Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.

A consultant gynaecologist caused an unborn baby to be accidentally decapitated inside her mother’s womb as she carried out a bungled delivery, a medical tribunal has heard.

It is claimed Dr Vaishnavy Laxman, 41, should have given her 30-year-old patient an emergency Caesarean section as the premature infant was in a breech position but instead attempted to carry out the delivery naturally.

Tragedy struck when the doctor urged the patient to push whilst herself applying traction to the baby’s legs, it has been alleged.

The manoeuvre caused the infant’s legs, arms and torso to become detached leaving the head still in his mother’s womb.

Two other doctors subsequently carried out a C-section on the woman to remove the infant’s head.

It was ”reattached” to his body so his mother could hold him before she said goodbye. The tribunal has heard the mother was not even in established labour at the time.

At the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester, the mother – known only as Patient A – came to face with Laxman and in a harrowing exchange across the room looked at her and said: “I don’t forgive you – I don’t forgive you” as the doctor stared at the floor.

The patient then looked away as Laxman’s QC apologised on her behalf.

The hearing was told the tragedy occurred on March 16, 2014 while Laxman was working at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee with a team of other doctors.

The woman’s waters had broken early, at 25 weeks, and upon examination her unborn baby was found to have a prolapsed cord and it was decided she needed to give birth immediately.

In heartbreaking evidence, Patient A, who was holding two teddy bears in her arms, told the hearing: “When I was taken to the labour suite nobody told me what was happening. A lot of people were talking they kept saying the baby needed to come out but nobody looked at me in the eye and told me what was going to happen.”

She added: “There was no anaesthetic. I said to them “it doesn’t feel right, stop it, what’s going on, I don’t want to do it” but nobody responded to me in any way.

”Afterwards I was in a cubicle with a curtain around me and the sister came over to me and told me my son had passed away.

“I didn’t know the details but Dr Laxman came to see me and the baby’s father was there.

“Dr Laxman sat on the side of my bed and she said how sorry she was for what happened but I didn’t know the full extent of what happened at that point.

”I just said “it’s alright, these things happen, I forgive you.”

She went away but I started screaming when I found out the full extent – I was just crying. I was upset because of the severity of his injury.

“I would never use the word stillborn. He was not stillborn, he was decapitated.”

The hearing was told the woman was given cocodamol before she was examined and Dr Laxman decided on a natural delivery.

Lawyer for the General Medical Council, Charles Garside QC said three attempts had been made to free the baby but that the conclusion had been tragic. He said the choice of delivery taken by Dr Laxman was “the wrong choice” and should “never have been used”.

Dr Laxman, who faces being struck off, denies contributing to the death of the baby.

Her lawyer Gerard Boyle QC addressed the mother during the hearing and told her: “Dr Laxman has asked me to say she is so very sorry and deeply saddened for the outcome of your baby.

”She knows that no amount of words can or will soften your pain but she is hoping that knowing that what she was trying to do was her very best to deliver your baby quickly and sufficiently and she had best intentions at heart.

“She did not intend to harm you or harm your baby and she offers her apologies in every possible way.”

The hearing continues.

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