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Posted on 15th November 2017

Midwives Fail To Spot Jaundice

The boy was born in February 2009 at a hospital in Birmingham but midwives failed to spot and treat his jaundice. This led to the boy developing a preventable rare brain injury called kernicterus.

He now suffers from quadriplegic dystonic cerebral palsy, a hearing impairment and developmental delays as a result of the mistakes. The medical condition kernicterus is a preventable medical condition as long as treatment is started early enough.

At an approval meeting at the High Court on Monday 13th November the courts awarded a compensation package equivalent to £18 million to be used for round the clock specialist care and equipment.

In 2008, Sir Liam Donaldson (government’s former Chief Medical Officer) called for a register of kernicterus sufferers and routine screening however no register has been put in place and the Department of Health have not taken a decision as to whether screening should be mandatory.

The solicitor assisting the family of the injured boy commented “Jaundice is a common condition in new-borns and, whilst in rare cases the consequences can be serious, it is treatable. Sadly, the mistakes made have had a catastrophic impact on my client’s life and the lives of the rest of his family”

A spokesperson for the NHS Trust involved said “We can confirm that a settlement has been agreed with the family involved following an admission that there were problems in diagnosing early neonatal jaundice. The standards of care provided did not meet those expected and for this we are truly sorry”


Jaundice is a condition caused by high levels of bilirubin in blood and the body’s tissues. It is a common condition in new born babies because the organs used to remove the substance are not fully developed.

A baby should be reviewed within 72 hours of birth for signs of jaundice.

The condition is estimated to develop in as many as 6 out of 10 babies and 8 out of 10 pre-term babies but only 1 in 20 need treatment due to high levels of bilirubin.

Kernicterus affects only 1 baby in every 100,000 and in 2013 – 14 there were only eight hospital admissions for the condition.

Babies are vulnerable to being injured during the birthing process and it is important that midwives follow the correct procedures and monitor the baby closely to avoid complications. If you or your baby have suffered an injury during childbirth, you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation.

Contact us on 0330 355 9210 or for a free claim assessment.