pounds 400,000 for woman told by doctors that baby was dead

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The Independent Online
A CALIFORNIAN businesswoman who "fell to pieces" following unnecessary surgery after doctors wrongly diagnosed that her second child had died in the womb, settled her High Court damages action for pounds 400,000 yesterday.

Susan Hagstrom's daughter Christen was born healthy in March 1994 but only after her mother had endured months of worry that the drugs, X-ray and the D & C evacuation procedure she had undergone had damaged the unborn baby.

Mrs Hagstrom, 39, of Garden Grove, California, repeatedly broke down as she told Mr Justice Blofeld in London that she was petrified she would give birth to a deformed child.

She needed further surgery to repair her uterus and small bowel, which were perforated during the procedure, and she still suffered from abdominal pain.

Continuing psychiatric problems, which she said amounted to post-traumatic stress disorder, had forced her to resign as marketing director for a Californian property company in December 1994 and she had not worked since. She said that it was all she could do during the day to take Christen and her elder sister, Danielle, eight, to school.

Judgment had already been entered in favour of Mrs Hagstrom against Royal Surrey County and St Luke's Hospitals NHS Trust over the negligent treatment she received in August 1993, when a scan at eight weeks' gestation wrongly suggested the absence of a foetal heartbeat.

Yesterday, five days into a hearing over the amount of damages to be awarded, the two sides announced that the pounds 1m-plus claim had been settled for pounds 400,000 with costs.

Mrs Hagstrom was not in court and her husband, Mark, whose devotion was praised by the judge, would not comment.

The judge described Mrs Hagstrom as an "enormously impressive witness" whose veracity he accepted unreservedly.

He added: "I accept entirely that her basic condition was brought on by these appalling matters".