Doctor says she tried 'possibly too hard' to deliver baby that was decapitated in mother's womb

'I was trying to deliver a live baby, I was trying really hard, possibly too hard. I did not intend to harm mum or the baby. I am distraught at the outcome and I am very sorry it did not come out the way I meant it'

Amy Walker
Tuesday 22 May 2018 20:12
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Baby 'accidentally decapitated inside mother's womb' during delivery

A senior NHS gynaecologist accused of causing an unborn baby to be accidentally decapitated inside her mother’s womb broke down in tears as she told a a disciplinary tribunal she may have tried “too hard” to complete a successful delivery.

Dr Vaishnavy Laxman, 43, was nearing the end of a 24-hour split shift on a maternity unit at the time and should have given the 30-year-old patient an emergency caesarean as the premature infant was in breech position, the hearing was told.

But instead she tried to carry out the delivery naturally and urged the patient to push while herself applying traction to the baby’s legs, causing the decapitation.

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. It is claimed the mother was not even in established labour at the time.

At the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service in Manchester, consultant Dr Laxman wept as she relived the procedure and said the baby would have died had a C-section been carried out.

She said: “I was trying to deliver a live baby, I was trying really hard, possibly too hard. I did not intend to harm mum or the baby. I am distraught at the outcome and I am very sorry it did not come out the way I meant it.”

The tragedy occurred on 16 March 2014, while Dr 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 to be in a breech position whilst the mother’s cervix was around 4cm dilated. It can be 10cm fully dilated.

Dr Laxman had started work at 8.30am the previous day and went home at 6pm for five hours before returning to the hospital at 11pm. She was told about the patient at 2am and was subsequently paged at 8.30am to take a look at her when her condition became more critical.

She told the tribunal: “The plan was for the baby to be delivered by a caesarian section and I went down to the labour suite to discuss the situation. I spoke to the patient saying I was sorry for the rush and and I remember saying the baby was quite small and I was going to examine her.

“When I examined the patient I found that the uterus was quite small and I found the cervix was about 4cm dilated. I asked the patient to push to see if I could deliver the baby vaginally and I remember going through various options available with the patient.

“I remember thinking should I try to deliver this baby. I still believe we had a very good chance of having the baby using other options than a C-section but we had to act fast.”

Under cross-examination, she said: “During the course of my training I delivered a lot of babies in the UK and India. Some in breech positions, some with prolapsed cords, some as premature babies. I did have experience with this. But I have never had everything with one patient before, it was a lot of complications. I just wanted this baby out the quickest way possible.”

The baby died before decapitation, she told the hearing.

Dr Laxman denies misconduct. The hearing continues.

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