Women wrongly told unborn babies were dead

Hospital bosses have apologised after two pregnant women were wrongly told that their unborn babies were dead during routine scans, it was disclosed today.

Joanna Barro, 25, was told by staff at the Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton that they could not detect a foetal heartbeat when she went for a scan while eight weeks pregnant with her first child.



She was advised to go home and let the miscarriage procedure take its course. She returned for a follow-up scan a week later as she refused to accept her baby was dead, and learned there was a heartbeat.



Miss Barro went on to give birth seven months later to healthy 7lb 4oz Ruby, who will be three in February.



Her case echoes that of Sofia Taylor, 22, who refused to accept her baby was dead at nine weeks in August at the same hospital and demanded a second scan which showed her pregnancy was progressing normally.



Today hospital officials reassured pregnant women in the area, saying these were isolated cases of human error which happened more than three years apart.



But Miss Barro vowed never to have another child at the same hospital, saying staff should have been 100% sure before telling her that her unborn child was dead.



Speaking from her home in Telscombe Cliffs, she said: "When they told me that Ruby didn't have a heartbeat I just cried and cried.



"Their words to me were, 'It's dead, she has miscarried, there is no heartbeat'. They sent me home with a miscarriage letter and told me to let nature take its course.



"I had really wanted a baby for ages so I didn't want to believe that I had lost it. It didn't seem real. Call it a mother's instinct, but I didn't believe she was dead.



"I thought having a miscarriage would be painful but I didn't get any of that."



After learning there was a heartbeat a week later, the single mother said she felt a mixture of happiness, confusion and anger.



"They shouldn't have told me I had miscarried without being 100% sure," she said. "They just need to sort it out because if I had not had a second scan I would have terminated Ruby.



"The hospital may say these are only isolated cases but there may be other mothers-to-be who may have terminated their babies when they needn't have."



She added that the whole saga has made her an overprotective mother. She said: "Ruby is my miracle. In my eyes I have already lost her once and I don't want to again."



Mrs Taylor, from Peacehaven, said it was "mother's intuition" that prompted her to demand a second scan at the same hospital.



"I insisted on having another test," she told the Daily Mail.



"They weren't happy about it and said I really should have a termination. If I had listened to them I would have lost my baby. It doesn't bear thinking about."



Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust said it carries out 6,000 scans a year and its safety record is in the best 5% nationally.



In a letter sent to Mrs Taylor and her husband last month, trust chief executive Duncan Selbie said hospital bosses "profoundly apologise".



He said: "Human error of this sort is extremely unusual within the service and we have gone to some lengths already to investigate how this came about and to ensure that our processes and policies are sufficient so that we can be confident that a mistake of this nature will not happen again."



In a statement relating to Miss Barro, Mr Selbie said: "We have reviewed Ms Barro's notes which show that in 2007 she had a scan where we were not able to detect a heartbeat and she was advised that she had lost her pregnancy.



"In such cases we always give women the option of going home to let nature take its course, and return for a repeat scan in a week's time.



"This is what happened with Ms Barro and thankfully, at the second scan, a heartbeat was detected.



"We carry out 6,000 scans a year and our safety record is in the best 5% nationally, which is not to say that we don't make mistakes, but that they are very rare, we always act on them and apologise when we do.



"I am extremely sorry for the distress this must have caused Ms Barro in the early stages of her pregnancy."

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