Baby's tragic death

By Kathryn King


A young Wanganui woman whose baby boy died shortly after she gave birth has accused her midwife of not listening, and ignoring her when she first voiced concerns over his condition.

An inquest into the death of Melissa Brider's first baby, Tane O'Hagan-Brider, on December 3, 2004, at Wanganui Hospital is being heard before Coroner Gary Evans.

Baby Tane died not long after he was born.

Ms Brider said after his birth, her son was gasping when he was placed on her stomach wrapped in a towel and when she told her midwife Cheryl Baker that "he's not breathing properly", she was told to "not be stupid and breastfeed him".

"She came over and maybe glanced at him and did not touch him," Ms Brider told the inquest.

Ms Brider then said Ms Baker "haggled with me ... she was not in a hurry to check him ... she was arguing with me over the fact I was trying to breastfeed him".

Ms Brider said she told Ms Baker "nothing is happening, his mouth is open ... he's not right."

Ms Baker left the room for ice for Ms Brider to place on the tear she received while giving birth, and while gone Ms Brider noticed baby Tane had a rattle in his throat, was purple in colour and felt limp in her arms.

When the midwife returned Ms Brider told her there was something wrong with her child and Ms Baker hurried the baby out of the room, followed by her mother and partner.

Ms Baker returned and told her the baby was fine and to get in the shower.

While she was in the shower, another woman came to tell her she had to go and hold Tane, because he was "very sick".

Ms Brider was taken to a hall outside the resuscitation room, where she watched medical staff work on her baby, and then held him. She thought he died in her arms, she said.

Ms Brider maintained she had told Ms Baker she never wanted her mother to be present at the birth, only her partner (at that time) and baby Tane's father, Robert O'Hagan.

In evidence yesterday, Ms Brider said she was in a lot of pain and remembered some discussion with the midwife about the first shot, and asking for more pain relief but did not remember any further discussion.

Ms Brider said she was relying on the midwife's expertise because it was her first baby.

Coroner Evans said the midwife had spoken of acrimony between Ms Brider's mother and her partner, and asked if that could have affected how she carried out her work.

Ms Brider said you could "cut the tension with a knife" between the pair, and it affected the midwife's judgement of the way she treated her.

Ms Brider said she had asked her mother to leave the room, but the midwife kept asking her back in, which was making her "very angry".

She said Ms Baker must have known she did not want her mother there because they had discussed at the outset of the pregnancy that it was to be just her and her partner in the room for the birth.

Ms Brider said her mum was being rude to her partner, who was trying to keep her calm and diffuse the situation.

Re-examined by Ms Brider's lawyer John Rowan QC, Ms Brider said Ms Baker instructed and showed Mr O'Hagan where to cut his son's umbilical cord which was wrapped twice around the child's neck.

Coroner Evans asked Ms Brider if she saw Mr O'Hagan cut the cord.

She replied that she "just saw him with the scissors because he [Tane] was not really delivered yet".

Coroner Evans said the cord was cut five centimetres too short.

On December 5 Ms Baker called Ms Brider, but that call was terminated when Ms Brider hung up on her.

Coroner Evans asked Ms Brider: "Why do you think the midwife called you?"

"To clear her conscience," Ms Brider replied.

Whanganui Police Detective Senior Sergeant David Kirby was the first witness called and said following an investigation, he recommended no criminal charges needed to be laid and referred the matter to the coroner in 2007.

Mr Rowan questioned him on the use of the drugs pethidine and fentanyl, which were both administered to Ms Brider during her labour.

Ms Baker advised narcotics were not a good idea at that stage, and the issue was discussed as a family and eventually narcotics were given.

Coroner Evans noted that they did not say however, whether a specific narcotic agent was requested, whether there was a discussion as to which different options were the best in the circumstances, and what adverse consequences might follow from each of them.

Mr Rowan said there was a limitation in the drugs act which limited midwives from prescribing, administering or supplying pethidine.

He confirmed with Mr Kirby that their investigation focused on the time the drugs were administered, rather than the legality of the drugs, but said he asked for a neonatologist to be consulted and a report to be made along with his recommendations, but that report was never completed.

Whanganui District Health Board lawyer John Unsworth said there would be evidence of a standing order which allowed midwives to administer the drug as pain relief.

Mr Kirby said the basis for his recommendation was that the actions taken were not at a level of gross negligence and did not reach the threshold for criminal conviction.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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