Inquest told nurses did not check mother after birth

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A woman who died after she had twins at one of Britain's most expensive private hospitals was denied basic medical checks for more than two hours after the delivery, an inquest was told.

Laura Touche, a direct descendent of the former US President Thomas Jefferson, died of a brain haemorrhage nine days after the Caesarean birth at the Portland Hospital in London, which is popular with celebrities and royalty.

The inquest began after Mrs Touche's husband, Peter, whose great-grandfather started the accountancy firm that grew into Deloitte & Touche, won a High Court battle to have her death investigated.

He told the hearing that when his 31-year-old American wife gave birth in February 1999 it initially seemed to be a "model delivery". Mr Touche said his wife was an "incredibly tough" person who rarely had headaches and seemed healthy and alert immediately after the operation, but later complained of having "the worst headache ever".

He returned to the couple's home in Chelsea, west London, but was called back to the hospital where he found his wife "fitting down one side of her body", he said. Her blood pressure was found to be abnormally high and she was transferred to the Middlesex Hospital and from there to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery, where she died on 15 February.

The inquest at St Pancras coroners' court was told there were no recorded observations of Mrs Touche's condition for two and a half hours after she left the operating theatre. Ursula Lloyd, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist in charge of Mrs Touche's case, said mothers would normally be checked every 15 minutes in the first hour after birth.

That was "basic nursing care" that would have detected hypertension, allowing medicines to be given for very high blood pressure, she said.

Mrs Lloyd said she was not aware of anything unusual about Mrs Touche's blood pressure during the operation but when she looked at the patient's notes there were no blood pressure readings.

Under cross-examination, by Philip Havers QC, for the Touche family, Mrs Lloyd agreed it was "appalling" that she had not been monitored during or after the operation.

Mrs Lloyd said she was alerted to Mrs Touche's rising blood pressure when she got a phone call at 2am, three days after the birth, from the resident medical officer. "He told me that he had been called to see Mrs Touche because she had reported a severe headache and her blood pressure was found to be significantly raised."

Between 1.35am and 1.55am three exceptionally high readings had been taken.

Fiona Laird, who was the midwife when Mrs Touche had the Caesarean, said her blood pressure was taken before the birth and it was normal. After the birth Mrs Touche was in high spirits and seemed well, she said. "I remember her being so happy, just absolutely delighted with the twins."

The hearing was adjourned until today.

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