'˜We want justice for our babies': Northampton woman's campaign to see inquests for stillbirths
A Northampton mother who was forced to enter a four-year legal battle to reveal doctor's negligence over her baby's death is calling for a change in the law for other parents - and The Chronicle & Echo wants to help her cause.
Parents Michelle Hemmington and Paul Buckley, of Kingsley, were told their son Louie had died 35 minutes after he was born at Northampton General Hospital, on May 17, 2011.
But as their child was classed as stillborn, an inquest was not triggered. All they had to go on was an internal NGH report, which revealed numerous failings on the hospital’s behalf.
In their search for answers they launched a legal bid and after four years they had their answer - the hospital trust admitted failings which led to Louie being stillborn - a classification the couple still dispute.
The couple have since launched a campaign calling for every stillbirth from 39 weeks gestation that happens during labour to be referred to the coroner, who can hold an independent, objective assessment of the death.
Now Michelle wants to meet the Justice Secretary - in the hope of getting the law to form part of the Theresa May’s Government’s agenda.
She said: “No one should have to go through what we went through.
“We went through a nightmare and all we wanted was for someone to say sorry and to admit liability for our baby’s death.
“This is a real chance to save babies’ lives in the UK.”
Michelle, whose Campaign for Safer Births has gained a following from across the UK, believes parents should not have to go through what they did to get answers.
She said: “We didn’t take going to the solicitor’s lightly.
“We know he shouldn’t have died, but it was the only thing we could do for our son.
“It was up to us to find out how and why he died. It was to give him justice.
“All we wanted was for the hospital to admit it. But it took four years.”
Michelle and Paul finally concluded the claim with an admission of liability in December, 2015.
“What we really wanted was an inquest. That would have given us an independent investigation. He would have been treated the same as any other baby that had died due to negligence.
“If he had taken one breath we would have been entitled to an inquest.”
The Campaign for Safer Births was set up by Michelle with Nicky Lyon, a Cheshire mother whose baby was born brain damaged and died at 18 months of age due to injuries sustained at birth.
Along with campaigning for a law change around inquests, the two women want parents who have a stillborn baby at their full pregnancy term to be able to register a birth certificate.
Michelle, said: “I love my son as much as I love my two daughters, but I have no record of that. I just have a stillbirth record.”
Michelle and Nicky have held meetings with the Chief Coroner, have the support of experienced district coroners and have enlisted the help of a Parliamentary advisor.
But they need to get the wheels in motion as legislation could take years to go through Parliament.
They want to speak to the Justice Secretary Liz Truss directly in the hope of bringing any law forward.
Michelle believes the more inquests that are held into full-term stillbirths, the more chance there will be for hospital trusts to learn lessons about how they can be avoided.
Sarah Harper, a specialist clinical negligence lawyer for Access Legal- part of Shoosmiths Solicitors – represented Michelle and Paul during their case. She said: “Their campaign is incredibly important as many parents of stillborns feel that it is unfair to deny them an inquest and that they should have the same access to justice as those whose babies die in the first few minutes or hours of life.”
Paul Scully-Sloan, director of the charity Daddys With Angels, a grieving father support group based in Northampton, is also backing Michelle’s campaign.
He said: “As it stands, parents leaving the hospital after their child is stillborn haven’t even got evidence their child existed – all they have is a stillbirth certificate.”