22-Week-Old Premature Baby Dies After Hospital Refuses to Treat Her

International   |   Micaiah Bilger   |   Aug 15, 2022   |   1:00PM   |   London, England

British mother Alisha Pegg has been left wondering if her premature daughter would be alive today if the hospital had not “neglected” her last February when she was born.

The Guardian reports Pegg recently demanded and received an apology from William Harvey hospital in Ashford, Kent, England, for the lack of care that her daughter received.

Baby Grace died in February 2021 after being born prematurely at 22 weeks of pregnancy, according to the report.

Pegg said she went to the hospital a day before her daughter was born, suffering cramping and pain, but, after confirming that her unborn daughter still had a heartbeat, the doctor told her to go home.

“In my head I was thinking my daughter is OK, she has a heartbeat. I told them I’m in labor and I felt I needed to push, but the doctor said go home,” she told the BBC.

A day later, Pegg said she returned to the hospital by ambulance because her pain had not subsided.

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Initially, she said the hospital workers told her the worst: Her daughter was dead. However, a few minutes later, she said they admitted that they were wrong and Grace was still alive.

Grace was born prematurely and then placed in her mother’s arms; she lived for four hours outside the womb, according to the report.

“They neglected Grace,” Pegg said. “In all their reviews they say they did try to tube her, but she was showing no signs of life. Yet she survived four hours by herself.

“I want answers as to why I was not listened to when I persistently told them what my body was doing. I want an apology,” she continued.

A hospital official did apologize this summer, admitting that they should have provided better care to the mother and daughter and promising to reform its practices.

“We are truly sorry that we didn’t provide the standard of care and support needed,” said Rebecca Martin, the chief medical officer at the hospital trust. “We have changed our practices and policies following Grace’s sad death, including introducing further monitoring for those at risk of preterm labor.”

Several recent investigations have exposed problems with maternal health care in hospitals across England. According to The Guardian: “The incident follows the Shropshire maternity scandal, in which a five-year investigation concluded that more than 200 babies could have survived if they had been provided with better care. … A total of 201 babies and nine mothers could, or would, have survived if the NHS trust had provided better care, the inquiry found.”

Another recent investigation of hospitals in East Kent has not been published yet, but it also allegedly found approximately 200 incidents involving problems with care provided to mothers and babies, the report states.

More premature babies are surviving earlier and thriving thanks to modern medicine. In November, Guinness World Records recognized an Alabama boy who was born at 21 weeks as the youngest premature baby to survive. Curtis Means was born weighing 14.8 ounces at 21 weeks and one day in 2020. In 2017, the journal Pediatrics highlighted the story of another girl who survived after being born at 21 weeks and four days of pregnancy.

A 2015 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that more premature infants are surviving at 22 weeks of pregnancy. However, researchers also found that some hospitals do not try to save premature babies born before 24 weeks, despite the advances in premature infant care.

Others have reformed their practices. In 2019, the British Association of Perinatal Medicine updated its guidelines to recommend doctors provide life-saving treatment to premature babies at 22 weeks of pregnancy because of new medical advances. Previously, the association did not recommend treatment until 24 weeks.

Twenty Two Matters keeps a running list of hospitals confirmed to have saved babies born at 21 weeks to 22 weeks of pregnancy.