Settlement for use of balloon catheter without consent

Our clinical negligence team has settled a claim for a woman who suffered from psychological injuries following the use of a balloon catheter while in hospital to give birth. A balloon catheter is device that can be inserted into the uterus and inflated to try to induce labour.

Our client was pregnant with her third baby in 2019 and attended Frimley Park Hospital to be induced. She was examined by the consultant obstetrician, who tried to break her waters; he was unable to do so and said he would proceed using a balloon catheter. His first attempt  was unsuccessful and so he tried the procedure again, at which point our client told him that this was causing her unbearable pain and asked him to stop. The consultant continued regardless, advising her that if he were to stop she would need to undergo a caesarean-section. Our client described how she was screaming in pain and repeatedly begged that the procedure be stopped. The procedure was again unsuccessful, and was then abandoned. She was then given prostaglandin gel and, fortunately, her baby was born safely. 

As a result of the obstetrician’s failure to stop the procedure when asked, our client experienced significant additional pain and suffering during her delivery, a longer physical recovery period, and was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In the year after the birth, she sought counselling and was prescribed anti-depressant medication because of what she had been through.

Investigations were carried out as part of the clinical negligence claim, led by our specialist team, and expert evidence was obtained from a psychiatrist. It was alleged that our client’s obstetrician should have stopped the balloon catheter procedure once she withdrew her consent and asked him to stop. The failure to do so led to our client experiencing additional pain and suffering, and later developing PTSD. The defendant admitted these failings and apologised for the error in her care. Through negotiations a sensible settlement was agreed.

The use of a balloon catheter during induction of labour may often be appropriate, but the patient’s wishes should be taken into account and a doctor should not continue a procedure without the patient’s consent. We are pleased that our client received an apology and hope that this will reduce the chances of similar decisions being made in the future. Her damages will also enable her to access psychiatric support in the future to help her recover from her PTSD.

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