Blake Lapthorn, one of the UK's leading law firms, is representing the family of Mrs Niran Aukhaj in relation to a potential clinical negligence claim against University Hospital of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust, the NHS body with responsibility for Furness General Hospital.
Niran very sadly died suddenly in April 2008 when she was 34 weeks pregnant with her second child. Her baby died at the same time.
Earlier this month, Cumbria Police announced it was investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of a number of mothers and babies during 2008 that were under the care of the maternity services at Furness General Hospital at the time. Niran's husband Jay Aukhaj had however instructed solicitors some time previously to look into the circumstances surrounding his wife's death as he had been unhappy with various aspects of her care.
During her first pregnancy, Niran suffered from high blood pressure resulting in the need for an emergency caesarean section. Her son, Akash, now 12-years-old, was thankfully delivered safe and well. When she became pregnant again Niran made sure that the staff at Furness hospital were aware of her previous antenatal history; she was diabetic and was therefore referred jointly to the antenatal and diabetic clinics.
Blake Lapthorn says that medical records show that there were a number of occasions during Niran's pregnancy where no blood pressure reading or urine analysis was recorded. At an appointment on 31st March 2008 the doctor underlined an increased blood pressure reading in the notes but no action was taken.
On 14th April, Niran attended the antenatal clinic again and Mr Aukhaj recalls an extremely high blood pressure reading being taken by the nurse at this appointment, but there is no blood pressure recorded in the notes. Niran was expecting to be seen by the obstetrician as well as the diabetic nurse but was told she could go home without seeing the consultant who would see her next time.
On 20th April, Niran complained of feeling weak and had a headache. That night, she went to bed in her son's room who woke in the early hours having heard a thump and found his mother lying on the floor and called his father who then immediately rang for an ambulance.
Despite extensive resuscitation, Niran was pronounced dead shortly after her arrival at Furness General Hospital.
A post mortem was carried out and the pathologist originally stated that the most likely cause of death was eclampsia. However at an inquest before HM coroner Mr Ian Smith on 10 September 2009, the cause of death was amended to 'unascertained'.
The family believe that if Niran's condition had been properly monitored throughout her pregnancy, it would have been recognised that she was developing signs of pre-eclampsia. This would have led to admission to hospital and safe delivery of her son before full-blown eclampsia developed, thereby avoiding her death.
"This is a particularly sad case that resulted in the death of a young wife and mother, and her unborn child," says Kym Provan, who is a senior solicitor in the Clinical Negligence team at Blake Lapthorn. "Niran was correctly identified at the beginning of her pregnancy as being in a high risk group and the intention was that she would be monitored and managed jointly by the diabetic clinic and the obstetricians. Unfortunately this does not appear to have been followed through.
"Basic but vital checks should be conducted at every antenatal appointment but these simple checks do not appear to have been routinely performed in Niran's case. It is alleged that as a consequence her increasing symptoms went undiagnosed and unchecked to the point where she suffered a fatal collapse on 21 April 2008."
The police investigations into a number of deaths at the maternity unit are presently continuing. In the meantime Niran's family are awaiting a response to the allegations of negligence that they have made, from University Hospital of Morecambe Bay NHS Trust.
Asked for comment, Tony Halsall who is Chief Executive at University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, told virtual-lancaster “Cumbria Constabulary has not yet confirmed to us the scope of their investigation or the number or details of the cases involved but we will, of course, cooperate fully with them.
"In light of this we do not feel that it is appropriate to comment further at this time except to offer our sincere condolences to any family for the tragic loss of a loved one.”