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£400,000 damages for family of woman who died in childbirth

Jan Colley,Press Association
Thursday 24 September 2009 13:46 BST

The family of a woman who died in labour and never saw the son she had conceived after IVF treatment was awarded £410,000 damages today.

Joanne Lockham, a 45-year-old senior staff nurse, was overdue when she was admitted to Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, in October 2007 for the birth of her first child.

The decision to perform a Caesarian section was made when the baby's heart rate suddenly dropped and she was given a general anaesthetic.

But the tube meant to provide Mrs Lockham, of Wendover, Buckinghamshire, with oxygen during the operation was placed down her oesophagus, rather than her windpipe.

She was deprived of oxygen for half an hour and suffered a cardiac arrest just one minute after Finn was safely delivered.

She died two days later, having never seen Finn, who is being brought up by her husband Peter, a 48-year-old builder, who also has a 17-year-old son by an earlier relationship.

At London's High Court today, Mr Justice Burnett approved the settlement against Buckinghamshire Hospitals NHS Trust, who promptly admitted liability and publicly apologised for "serious failures" at the March inquest into Mrs Lockham's death.

The judge said the claim arose in "especially tragic circumstances", and paid tribute to Mr Lockham for his devoted care of his sons.

"He has done so in circumstances that all of us can understand are extremely difficult. The settlement is an entirely appropriate one."

The family's counsel, Christopher Johnston, had told the court: "Finn was the son who Joanne never saw following a long period of IVF. This was a much wanted child."

The Trust's counsel, Alex Antelme, repeated its apology for the tragic accident.

There was no comment from Mr Lockham, who was in court for the brief hearing.

In a narrative verdict, the inquest jury highlighted four "serious failures" to follow the drill for incorrectly-ventilated patients.

These were:

* The failure to provide Mrs Lockham with 100% oxygen.

* The failure of medics to use a machine to detect if she was exhaling carbon dioxide.

* Giving her a second dose of a drug to paralyse her limbs when she started to stir.

* Wasting time with repeated attempts to insert the intubation tube.

Coroner Richard Hulett described the decision to administer a second dose of muscle relaxant as a "disastrous move".

The Trust said it had carried out a full investigation after Mrs Lockham's death and made changes to procedures.

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