A Scottish doctor who accidentally caused a baby to be decapitated while attempting to deliver him prematurely may return to work this week.
The Mirror reports a Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service cleared Dr Vaishnavy Vilvanathan Laxman of serious misconduct in the horrifying case. However, the tribunal did find Laxman erred in judgment.
The baby boy was in breech position, and his head became lodged in his mother’s cervix during the emergency delivery, The Daily Mail reports. Lawyers for the baby’s family said Laxman should have delivered him by cesarean section when his mother’s water broke at 25 weeks of pregnancy.
The tribunal agreed. It said Laxman was “negligent and fell below the standards ordinarily to be expected,” but her actions were not at the level of serious misconduct.
“But for Dr Vilvanathan Laxman’s error of judgement in this regard, the decapitation would not have occurred,” the tribunal ruled, according to the BBC.
“The failing which the tribunal has found proved was not sustained, persistent or repeated, but rather a single error of judgement made in very difficult circumstances,” it said. “The tribunal was satisfied that throughout the attempted delivery of baby B, Dr Vilvanathan Laxman believed that she was acting in both patient A’s and baby B’s best interests, and that she genuinely believed that proceeding with a vaginal delivery was the optimum course to take in the circumstances which existed at the time.”
It said Laxman also expressed genuine remorse for the baby’s death and accepted responsibility for her actions.
“Further, at no point has Dr Vilvanathan Laxman sought to blame others for what happened or to minimise her actions,” the tribunal ruled.
The mother, who is not named in reports, said she knew her unborn baby boy was breech, because she had an ultrasound scan just a few days earlier. She said the nurse told her she likely would have to have a cesarean section.
When her water broke 25 weeks into her pregnancy, the mother said she was rushed into the labor room without being told what was happening.
“A lot of people were talking they kept saying the baby needed to come out but nobody looked at me in the eye and told me what was going to happen,” she said.
“I was examined by a doctor but she didn’t say anything to me. They were checking for the baby’s heartbeat and it had plummeted and that’s when I was told it was going to come out,” she continued.
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She said they did not provide her with pain relief, and soon urged her to push.
“I tried to get off the bed but they pulled me back three times and just said they had to get the baby out,” she continued. “They twice tried to cut my cervix and nobody told me they were going to do it. There was no anaesthetic. I said to them ‘it doesn’t feel right, stop it, what’s going on, I don’t want to do it’ but nobody responded to me in any way.”
Though she did not know it at the time, something went horribly wrong.
Charles Garside QC, a lawyer for the General Medical Council, said Laxman made the wrong decision to try to deliver the baby boy in breech position.
“… there was an obstruction during the birth which proved to be fatal. Dr Laxman allegedly delivered the legs, torso and arms successfully but whilst trying to deliver the head, it got stuck in the cervix,” Garside said.
“The attempt to manipulate the baby’s head to come out of the cervix failed because the cervix has clamped onto the baby’s head and despite effort made to assist, these efforts failed. Dr Laxman made three attempts to cut the cervix with scissors but Baby B’s head was separated from his body and his head was stuck inside Patient A’s body,” he continued.
Laxman’s lawyer Gerard Boyle QC argued that she did not contribute to the baby’s death, but she is extremely sorry for the family’s loss.
“She knows that no amount of words can or will soften your pain but she is hoping that knowing that what she was trying to do was her very best to deliver your baby quickly and sufficiently and she had best intentions at heart,” Boyle said.