‘They said I was insane, but I knew my baby was alive’: Mother’s two-year battle over hospital blunders
An attempted coverup of gross negligence leading to death
A mother fought a two-year battle with a hospital when her baby was wrongly certified as being stillborn after fatal mistakes by staff. Ava Mae Charlton was born by emergency caesarean section but she struggled to breathe and died after only 32 minutes.
Hospital officials tried to claim the baby was stillborn and so her death did not need to be investigated. But her parents Emma and Terry Charlton always maintained their daughter had been alive. They fought for an inquest until – after two years – the hospital finally admitted that Ava had not been stillborn, allowing the scrutiny of a hearing.
Her death followed those of two other babies at Milton Keynes Hospital in similar circumstances, when the mothers had to wait for a caesarean to be carried out.
Following the latest tragedy, coroner Tom Osborne has ordered managers to report all stillbirths and neonatal deaths to him for further investigation.
Mrs Charlton, a teacher, 31, said: ‘People questioned my sanity and it was infuriating because I knew my baby had been alive. I was grief-stricken and vulnerable and you just accept what health professionals tell you.
‘But when they handed me that stillborn certificate, I knew something wasn’t right. Then a meeting with our consultant opened up a whole can of worms and highlighted a number of errors that had been made.’
Ava’s death in September 2009 came when the maternity unit was still reeling from criticism into the death of another baby, Ebony McCall, four months before. Then, Mr Osborne had condemned staff shortages which contributed to her demise as ‘nothing short of scandalous’.
The deaths of the two girls bear an uncanny resemblance. Both went into distress and both mothers had to wait a considerable time for caesareans. Ava, like Ebony, would very probably be alive today had the surgery been carried out sooner, the inquest heard.
The loss of a third baby girl, Romy Feast in 2007 in similar circumstances, in the same unit also prompted criticism from the coroner at the time.
Mr Osborne delivered a narrative verdict at Ava’s inquest at Milton Keynes Coroner’s Court. ‘There was a failure to recognise the seriousness of her (Ava’s) condition and a delay in carrying out the emergency caesarean section,’ he said. The coroner ruled that if the surgery had been carried out earlier ‘on the balance of probabilities Ava would have survived’.
Mrs Charlton, of Milton Keynes, was admitted when 36 weeks’ pregnant, suffering with pre-eclampsia, the court heard. She had previously had an MRI scan which showed she had a ‘borderline pelvis’ making a natural delivery risky. But Mrs Charlton was not told of this risk and was not given the option of a caesarean section.
Instead, she was induced and a short time later, began to bleed with Ava becoming distressed in the womb, the court was told. But doctors delayed the decision to carry out an emergency caesarean for one hour and 25 minutes. When it was finally performed, the baby was born in a ‘very poor condition’ and despite resuscitation, died shortly after.
After last month’s inquest, Mrs Charlton and her husband, who works in graphics, will finally be able to register Ava’s birth.
The couple, who later had another daughter, Isla, now two, said they were devastated by the hospital’s blunder. ‘It has taken us years to get to this stage and we feel quite bitter it took this long for the hospital to concede they had made a mistake,’ said Mrs Charlton. ‘They have destroyed my life and took my child away. It is utterly devastating and has totally changed me.
‘This is not the first case where the hospital has been forced to face questions about its practice of declaring babies “stillborn”, thereby avoiding an inquest.
‘It is particularly distressing that our baby would still be with us today had the caesarean taken place earlier. Hopefully the verdict will be acted upon so other parents will be spared the pain we have had to endure simply to discover the truth.’
As a direct result of Ava’s death, the coroner has ruled that all stillbirths and neonatal deaths in his area will have to reported so he can decide if an inquest should be called.
Hospital medical director Martin Wetherill said maternity services had been significantly improved, ensuring such an incident should never occur again. He added: ‘Clinical staff made an error in classifying Ava as a stillbirth.’ The hospital has apologised for the ‘unimaginable distress’ caused by her death.
Its maternity services were given a clean bill of health by inspectors in April 2011.
‘My mother was told she had 48 hours to live… but she didn’t look that bad’
1980s TV cook Rustie Lee accuses hospital of putting her mother, 87, on Death Pathway
TV star Rustie Lee has accused a Birmingham hospital putting her mother on a Liverpool Care Pathway-style plan – after wrongly warning her family she was dying.
Eugenie Edwards, 87, was admitted to City Hospital on October 13 with a chest infection. Within hours Rustie says she was told her mum had just 48 hours to live, as she was suffering from heart and kidney failure.
The family were then told the grandmother-of-three was being put on a pathway plan for end-of-life patients, where medication can be reduced.
Yet angry TV chef Rustie, famous for her appearances in the 1980s breakfast show TV-am, refused permission after insisting her mother was not dying – and six days later a recovered Mrs Edwards was discharged from hospital. The pensioner, who was diagnosed with dementia five years ago, is now back at her nursing home in Ladywood, Birmingham.
TV cook Rustie told the Birmingham Mail: ‘When I saw my mum in hospital she did seem poorly, but not as if she was about to pass away. In fact, she didn’t look close to that.
‘Yet we were told she had 24 to 48 hours to live and was about to be put on this pathway. I was only told about the plan when I went over to see the nurses to ask for painkillers for my mum. I was so shocked to be told she was on some pathway. I told the doctor this was not going to happen.’
Rustie says the nightmare began when her mum was rushed to the hospital from her care home with a suspected chest infection.
She says she was later told the grandmother had only hours to live and she was not given food, liquid or painkillers because nurses stated she could not swallow.
Just 24 hours after being admitted, relatives say they were told Mrs Edwards was being put on a Supportive Care Pathway (SCP).
It is based on the controversial Liverpool Care Pathway (LCP), which is designed to ease the suffering of the terminally ill in their final hours. But some families claim their relatives have been put on the LCP without their knowledge or permission – with a number making recoveries.
The SCP includes cutting back medication and is also for end-of-life care, but is not deemed as harsh as the LCP. It is currently being used in several wards at hospitals run by Sandwell and West Birmingham NHS Trust, including City Hospital.
Rustie told how she and other relatives had rushed to the hospital to see her sick mother, who went on to make a dramatic improvement.
‘She was on oxygen, a drip and a machine was draining liquid off her lungs,’ she said. ‘I was told she was unable to eat or swallow. However, when she came round I asked her if she was hungry and she said ‘yes’. ‘I got a yoghurt from the nurses and fed it to her. She ate it quite easily and looked as though she could have polished off a lot more at the time.
‘I stayed with her until 2am, while a cousin spent the night with her in the room. ‘By the morning she was a lot brighter. I told my son to go and get her some food. He came back with sandwiches, fruit and yoghurt drinks, which she happily ate and drank.
‘Afterwards she seemed so much better and was even singing and dancing in her bed. ‘She had improved by 95 per cent and we definitely didn’t think she was at death’s door. She was back to her usual self.’
But Rustie was left shocked by what she was allegedly told next. ‘I was massaging her foot and she said it was hurting. I said I’d go and sort out some painkillers for her,’ she said.
‘The nurses told me that she couldn’t have any more tablets as she couldn’t swallow, but she would be put on morphine and another drug when her pain became really bad.
‘I couldn’t understand why they were saying that as mum was so much better. That’s when a nurse told me they were putting her on a care pathway. I had never heard of this before.’
The doctor was called and Mrs Edwards’ care was discussed again with Rustie and a family member. The former breakfast TV star said: “I told the doctor how mum was feeling better after we had fed her, but again I was told she was being put on a pathway.
‘I said the family did not want her to be put on this pathway and that we wanted her back at her home, as we were not ready for her to die. We were so terrified and frightened for her, that we didn’t leave her side.’
In fact just a few hours later, on October 15, Mrs Edwards was moved to a ward and was no longer in a critical condition.
‘My mum was not in so much pain that she was reeling about on the bed needing morphine,’ said Rustie. ‘She may have been quite ill when she was admitted, but she drastically improved and there was no need to put her on a pathway.’
She added: ‘We should not be allowing hospitals to put people on a pathway if they are not critically ill. By the time my mum was discharged she could walk around and was eating fine.’
A City Hospital spokeswoman said: ‘The Supportive Care Pathway does not mean that patients are not fed or actively treated; it is a high standard of care for people with a life-limiting illness, which has been tailor-made for use in our hospitals and the community.
‘It is designed to meet a patient’s individual needs and ensures the care we give is focused on relieving symptoms and meeting a patient’s physical, psychological, social and spiritual needs. Mrs Edwards was very ill when she was admitted to our Medical Assessment Unit. ‘She was put on the Supportive Care Pathway and this was explained to her family.
‘Our records show that she was offered food to eat at this time. When we became aware of the family’s concerns regarding the pathway, she was taken off at their request.
‘Mrs Edwards was transferred to another ward for her recovery where a senior sister and doctor again spoke to Eugenie’s family to further explain the pathway and reassure them.
‘We are sorry to hear that Mrs Edwards’ family were unhappy with aspects of her care. ‘Our aim is to address concerns when they happen, however, if the family feel they would like more clarification we are more than happy for them to contact us to discuss this further.’
Teachers ‘to blame’ for lack of ambition among pupils — says British Liberal politician
There’s some truth in that but liberal restrictions on school discipline are a prior factor
Teachers are encouraging many children to believe that top exam grades, places at elite universities and professional careers are all beyond them, an education minister has said.
David Laws attacked the “depressingly low expectations” that he said are holding back children in many parts of the country and preventing them from getting ahead in life.
Even in relatively affluent parts of the country, schools and careers advisers are failing to encourage children to “reach for the stars,” instead pushing them to settle for middling exam results and careers with “medium-ranked” local employers, he said.
Mr Laws’s remarks to The Daily Telegraph are his first comments on education policy since his return to the Government in last month’s reshuffle.
“Teachers, colleges, careers advisers have a role and a responsibility to aim for the stars and to encourage people to believe they can reach the top in education and employment,” Mr Laws said. “That’s not happening as much as it should do at the moment.”
Mr Laws, a Liberal Democrat and close ally of Nick Clegg, has ministerial posts at the Department for Education and the Cabinet Office and holds the right to attend Cabinet meetings.
The Lib Dems are pushing measures to increase social mobility, making it easier for people to get ahead regardless of their background.
Alan Milburn, the Coalition’s social mobility adviser, last week criticised policies such as the scrapping of the education maintenance allowance that was paid to pupils from low-income homes.
Mr Laws, a Cambridge University graduate, said that social mobility was not simply a question of wealth, arguing that even children from comfortable backgrounds are being held back by low expectations and a lack of ambition.
The minister, a former City banker who represents Yeovil in Somerset, said many children are effectively being taught that high-flying careers are not possible for them.
“Even in my own constituency, Yeovil, which would not be regarded as one of the deprivation blackspots of the country, most young people would regard going into investment banking as almost leaving the country, because it’s a different world,” he said.
“They will often be encouraged to think it is beyond them.”
In many parts of the country outside London, the minister suggested, children without family connections believe that careers such as banking, law and journalism are closed.
Instead of aiming high, “there are too many young people who think that the two or three big employers in their local town are the limit of their aspiration”.
Low career expectations can lead children to get lower exam grades than they could achieve, he suggested. “If your expectation in a school is that you only need a modest set of qualifications because that’s all you need to work for the local employer, which you think is the best job you could do, that’s a huge cap not just on social mobility, it is a cap on achievement in examinations,” he said.
“If you think it is really important to get three A*s to get into Cambridge and the City, you will be much more motivated than if you think you just need three Cs to go into the local medium-ranked employer.”
As well as telling teachers and schools to raise children’s expectations, Mr Laws said that employers from “more privileged” industries should also do more to encourage applications from people of all backgrounds.
Mr Milburn last week produced figures showing that the 20 per cent of teenagers from privileged backgrounds are seven times more likely to get into top universities than the poorest 40 per cent.
Some campaigners want universities to change their entry policies to admit poor children with lower grades than their better-off counterparts. That is rejected by many Conservative MPs, who say that ministers should focus more on improving the performance of the state schools attended by poorer children.
Mr Laws suggested that some teachers in state schools are still discouraging pupils from targeting places at Oxbridge and other top-ranked universities.
“I still find, talking to youngsters across the country, the same depressing low expectations I found when I went to university in the 1980s,” he added.
“The students you met, who were often the first students from their school who had been to Oxbridge, said they were often encouraged by teachers and others to think that Oxford or Cambridge were not the places for them and they should think of somewhere more modest.”
Mr Laws last week returned to his former employer, JP Morgan, which is donating £1.1 million to Achieve Together, a charity that helps state schools attract and retain highly qualified teachers.
British Minister signals end of the wind farm: We can’t pepper turbines across the country – enough is enough, declares energy minister
The relentless march of onshore wind farms is at an end, a minister declared last night.
Insisting ‘enough is enough’, John Hayes said turbines had been ‘peppered around the country’ with little or no regard for local opinion. He said existing sites and those in the pipeline would be enough to meet green commitments with no need for more. ‘Even if a minority of what’s in the system is built we are going to reach our 2020 target,’ he said. ‘I’m saying enough is enough.’
Mr Hayes told the Mail he had commissioned research on the impact of wind turbines on the landscape and whether they drive down house prices.
He has also asked scientists to examine noise complaints and more sinister suggestions that the turbines endanger military aircraft by blocking radar signals.
The intervention by Mr Hayes, who became energy minister in last month’s reshuffle, will delight 100-plus fellow Tory MPs who have urged David Cameron to take a more sceptical approach to onshore wind power. It does however risk a clash with the Liberal Democrats, who are enthusiastic advocates of renewable energy.
Mr Hayes suggested the controversy over turbines was giving other sources of renewable power – such as offshore wind, solar and tidal power – a bad name.
‘The onshore wind debate is skewing the whole debate, which is not good for the Government, not good for people and not good for the renewables lobby,’he told the Mail.
‘We can no longer have wind turbines imposed on communities. I can’t single-handedly build a new Jerusalem but I can protect our green and pleasant land.
‘Firstly, I have asked the planning minister to look again at the relationship between these turbines and the landscape. ‘It seems extraordinary to have allowed them to be peppered around the country without due regard for the interests of the local community or their wishes.
‘We have issued a call for evidence on wind. That is about cost but also about community buy-in. We need to understand communities’ genuine desires.’
Mr Hayes said policy should not be based on some ‘bourgeois left article of faith’. ‘These things are about the people and I am the people’s minister,’ he added. ‘I want to look at a broader analysis of the effects – I mean house price values, and other quality of life issues. I want to look particularly at noise, so I have asked the Institute of Acoustics to look at the noise issue from a completely independent perspective.
‘There is a case where people had to move from their family farm because of noise. It is very often the case that local authorities don’t have the wherewithal to address these planning issues.’
Mr Hayes said defence ministers had agreed to investigate claims of radar interference from the spinning blades.
The Government has set a target of increasing the amount of power generated by onshore wind farms to 13 gigawatts by 2020.
But in an indication of a shift in Government policy, ministers announced this summer that the subsidy for onshore wind power generation would be cut by 10 per cent this year.
Approvals for onshore wind farms – around 3,800 turbines are in operation – have however reached record levels, according to figures published yesterday.
RenewableUK, the wind industry trade body, said in a statement: ‘For the first time in five years, the UK is seeing a rise in the amount of UK capacity approved at a local level.’
Controversial: The Energy Minister said onshore wind farms are turning people against other sources of renewable energy such as offshore alternatives and solar power
There was a 15 per cent increase in approval rates for smaller onshore projects with capacity of less than 50 megawatts last year compared with the previous year, it said.
Applications for new wind farms have to be made to councils, and around a half are refused. But under the existing system, energy companies often win on appeal to the planning inspectorate.
Campaigners took heart from a court ruling in May, in which villagers in Hemsby, on the edge of the Norfolk Broads, succeeded in blocking four 350ft turbines after a judge agreed their right to preserve their landscape was more important than renewable energy targets.
Tory MP Chris Heaton Harris, who has led calls for a rethink on wind power, said of Mr Hayes’s remarks: ‘This is a huge step forward. These awful turbines do nothing for the environment – they barely reduce CO2 – they force up energy bills and put more people into fuel poverty.
‘It’s about time the Government listened in this way. Communities will be delighted that they may now be spared the torment they have seen others go through when turbines go up.’
Former Conservative Chancellor Lord Lawson, an arch-sceptic on climate change, said: ‘I would welcome the minister’s statements. I would hope they would translate into a moratorium. An additional problem is that wind power is one of the most expensive forms of generating electricity there is.
‘At a time when there is so much concern both from households and industry about the cost of energy, that too should be a decisive argument against going this way.’
In Defense of English Civilization
Sean Gabb indulges in some fantasy
We know that England is under attack, and from its own ruling class. Before we can speak of defense, we need to understand the reasons for the attack.
This is not an attack on tradition in itself, but the unfolding of an alternative tradition.
Part of what defines a nation is the relationship between its ruling class and the people at large. Our historic self-perception as English is based on the relationship between rulers and ruled that existed before 1914, and, though to a fading degree, for a couple of generations thereafter.
The English people in 1914 were capable of fully democratic self-government. They had the necessary cultural and genetic cohesiveness for a democratic system not to descend into chaos or majoritarian tyranny.
Democracy, however, was not necessary, as the oligarchy of hereditary landlords who ruled England had absolutely identified itself with the nation. Every interest group had its place within the nation, and there was a place for all.
After 1914, the old ruling class was destroyed—the heavy casualties of both World Wars, high taxes on static wealth, demands for a fraudulent kind of democracy, and so forth. The old ruling class went down before all this, because it never tried to evade the duties that came with national identification.
The new ruling class is a coalition of politicians, bureaucrats, educators, lawyers, media people, and associated business interests that draws income and status from an enlarged and activist state. It does not own the means of production but is content merely to control them. Its general desire is to avoid the entanglements that destroyed the old ruling class. It wishes to avoid more than token identification with the English people at large.
“Conservatives, after all, should not wish to copy the mistakes of the French revolutionaries.”
The present—and so far the most successful—scheme of liberation is to make power opaque and unaccountable by shifting it upwards to various multinational treaty organizations—e.g., the EU, WTO, NATO, etc.—and to Balkanize England into groupings more suspicious of each other than willing to combine against the ruling class.
State-sponsored mass immigration has been the most obvious evidence of this desire. Filling the country with people of different colors and with different ways, which do not like each other, and do not like and are not liked by the natives, is ideal Balkanization. But one of the purposes of political correctness is also to divide the native population—women against men, homosexuals against Christians, and so forth.
The final desire is for the mass of ordinary people to be dispossessed and impoverished and unable to challenge structures of exploitation that channel fantastic wealth to a free-floating class of masters.
If we want to avoid this, we must destroy the ruling class now. Its weakness is its reliance on the state as source or enabler of its income. Conservatives, therefore, must seize control of the state and disestablish the ruling class.
If we want to win the battle for this country, we need to take advice from the Marxists. These are people whose ends were evil where not impossible. But they were experts in the means to their ends. They knew more than we have ever thought about the seizure and retention of power. If, therefore, we ever achieve a government of conservatives and seek to bring about the irreversible transfer of power to ordinary people, we should take to heart what Marx said in 1871 after the failure of the Paris Commune:
…the next attempt of the French Revolution will be no longer, as before, to transfer the bureaucratic-military machine from one hand to another, but to smash it, and this is the precondition for every real people’s revolution….
The meaning of this is that we should not try to work with the ruling class. We should not try to jolly it along. We should not try fighting it on narrow fronts. We must regard it as the enemy, and we must smash it.
On the first day of our government of conservatives, we should close down the BBC. We should take it off the air. We should disclaim its copyrights. We should throw all its staff into the street and cancel their pensions. We should not try to privatize the BBC. This would simply be to transfer the voice of our enemy from the public to the private sector, where it might be more effective in its opposition. We must shut it down—and shut it down at once.
We should do the same with much of the administration. The Foreign Office, much of the Home Office, the Commission for Racial Equality, or whatever it is now called, anything to do with health and safety and planning and child protection—I mean much of the public sector—these should be shut down.
If at the end of your first month in power, we have not shut down half of the state, we are failing. If we have shut down half the state, we have made a step in the right direction and are ready for still further cuts.
Let me emphasize that the purpose of these cuts would not be to save money for the taxpayers or lift an immense weight of bureaucracy from their backs—though they would do this. The purpose is to destroy the ruling class before it can destroy us. We must tear up the web of power and personal connections that make these people effective as an opposition to radical change. If we do this, we shall face no more clamor than if we moved slowly and halfheartedly.
One obvious sign of success will be when depensioned enemies like Neil Kinnock and Peter Mandelson are seen serving on the cheese counter in Sainsbury.
British police overwhelmed by 4,000 ‘petty squabbles’ on Facebook and Twitter, with three arrests a day for offensive messages
Police forces across Britain are being forced to deal with petty squabbles on Facebook, Twitter and other social network sites every day when they could be tackling more serious crimes.
Officers say they are wasting valuable time and resources tackling internet users directing abuse at each other.
In most cases, police simply tell victims to delete their tormentors from their networks, but the Crown Prosecution Service says a ‘few dozen’ more serious incidents have led to court, with the figure growing rapidly in recent months.
Internet trolls made sick comments about pop singer Adele’s baby boy within hours of his birth, and Tom Daley and diving partner Peter Waterfield were called ‘team HIV’ on Twitter by Welsh Premier League footballer Daniel Thomas, who was arrested but escaped prosecution because the duo did not press charges
New figures obtained by The Mail on Sunday show that at least three arrests are being made every day for sending offensive messages via phones and computers, including people harassing ex-partners by text message and making hoax threats as well as comments on social media.
An officer from Essex who asked not to be named said: ‘I dread to think how many hours are spent on Facebook jobs. If you don’t do at least one a day it’s been a very quiet day.’
He told how one man repeatedly called to claim that his ex-girlfriend was setting up fake accounts pretending to be him on Facebook, which has 900 million members worldwide.
When officers told the man to simply stop using Facebook, he replied: ‘But then I can’t see what they are saying about me.’
A young woman told police in Dorset she had received death threats on Facebook. But when officers investigated, they found she had actually threatened to spread malicious rumours about another woman, who had replied: ‘I hope you die then.’
An officer from the West Midlands told how he had advised someone complaining of Facebook abuse to ‘unfriend’ their abuser, only to be told: ‘But I won’t have as many friends.’
Others expected police to have a ‘magic wand’ allowing them to access all Facebook accounts and find out who was behind offensive messages.
An officer from North Wales said: ‘You will always have one or two serious incidents of harassment and bullying on Facebook and the like but for the most part it’s petty stuff.
It takes up a lot of time and the normal result is advice from us to all parties to grow up.’
Simon Reed, vice-chairman of the Police Federation of England and Wales, said: ‘We have concerns that we don’t have the resources to police everything that’s said on the internet.
We can’t have people getting upset in a one-off situation and involving the police.
I do think this could be the thin end of the wedge. If we show too much willingness and get involved in every squabble, we’re setting ourselves up to keep doing this because it will be expected.’
He said it was right for police to investigate cases involving homophobia or racism, but added: ‘We shouldn’t be dealing with individual squabbles.’
The laws most commonly used to prosecute anyone who posts offensive material online, or ‘trolls’ who goad public figures and victims’ relatives, make it illegal to send a grossly offensive or obscene message using an electronic network, and apply even if it is sent privately to only one person or just repeats what another has said.
Statistics from 22 out of the 43 police forces in England and Wales show there were at least 4,098 arrests under the relevant laws between the start of 2009 and the middle of 2012, averaging three a day.
More than 2,000 people were either charged or given an out-of-court fine or caution.