Parents whose babies are stillborn take legal action against hospitals because it can be the only way they can find out what happened, lawyers say this Sands awareness month.
In the UK between four and five stillbirths happen in every 1,000 births.
Sands is a nationwide charity which supports anyone affected by the death of a baby.
“Transparency is vital for grieving parents as they try to make sense of why they didn’t get to take their newborn sons and daughters home,” said Brett Dixon president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) a not-for-profit group for injured people and bereaved families.
“The search for answers can be tough and parents are sometimes forced down the legal route to find some sense of resolution. When their child’s death could and should have been avoided, they often just want someone to say sorry and to accept responsibility for what happened,” he said.
26-year-old Alison Walters’s daughter Caitlyn was delivered stillborn at 29 weeks.
In her final weeks of pregnancy Alison, from Southampton, knew something was not right and went to hospital.
“I was sent away three or four times. It was only when I had my scheduled antenatal appointment that it was established that something was wrong,” she said.
“There wasn’t enough blood flow. With the benefit of a scan the problem would have been detected and she would be ok. That was the most difficult thing to hear. She would be four years old now.”
A friend encouraged Alison and her husband to seek legal advice when they struggled to find out exactly what happened to their daughter.
“We had a follow up meeting at the hospital a week after she died and it was a chance for us to look through the notes. We saw immediately that some of the information was incorrect. The timeline didn’t add up and there were anomalies,” Alison said.
“The hospital has not admitted liability so our claim has not settled, but we do have some answers now as to what happened medically”.
Alison volunteers for Sands to help other bereaved parents with support and advice.
“My husband and I were grieving so differently, which is natural. I say support each other in your grief. Your support network in your family and friends is there but sometimes it’s just hard for people to know what to say.”
Alison and her husband now have a second daughter, 18-month-old Cassie.