News and Publications

Hampshire coroner considers tragic death of mother during labour at Royal Hampshire County Hospital

Posted: 23/03/2023

The inquest into the death of Lucy Howell, a 32 year old mother who died during labour, has concluded at Hampshire Coroner’s Court.

Mrs Howell died while giving birth to her second child on 13 March 2021 at the Royal Hampshire County Hospital in Winchester, with her death reported to have been the result of a uterine rupture and amniotic fluid embolism. 

Mrs Howell had undergone a caesarean section for the delivery of her first child in 2017 due to her daughter being breech. Following this, she experienced pain and intermenstrual bleeding and was found to have a uterine scar niche which was subsequently repaired surgically in 2019. She was advised not to become pregnant for three months afterwards and to talk with her obstetrician about the mode of delivery in any subsequent pregnancy due to the operation she had undergone. 

Mrs Howell became pregnant in the summer of 2020. Her second pregnancy was relatively uncomplicated, and she was advised that, despite the surgery to repair her uterine niche, she would be able to attempt a vaginal delivery. She was informed that her risks were no higher than those of any other woman attempting a vaginal delivery after one previous caesarean section. 

On 11 March 2021 Mrs Howell’s waters broke. She was admitted to hospital on 12 March. Unfortunately, her labour was not progressing and so options for inducing her were discussed. It was agreed that her labour would be induced using syntocinon, a medication that causes the muscle of the womb to contract. 

Sadly, Mrs Howell collapsed during labour and an emergency caesarean section was performed in order to deliver her daughter. Despite attempts to resuscitate Mrs Howell, she sadly passed away. 

Commenting on behalf of her family, Emma Beeson, a senior associate at Penningtons Manches Cooper, said at the end of the inquest: “This has been an extremely painful week for Lucy’s family. They have found it very difficult to learn that the decision regarding how to counsel her on the appropriate mode of delivery following her previous uterine niche surgery was made on the basis of a brief discussion at a photocopier which was not documented in her notes at the time by either clinician. They have also heard how there were conflicting views on the induction of her labour, various miscommunications and that there is a lack of national guidance on the method of delivery following uterine niche surgery.  

“Having raised a number of concerns in respect of the management of Lucy’s pregnancy and her labour, they are grateful that these were taken seriously by the coroner, and that significant time was allowed for evidence to be considered from a large number of witnesses and experts.” 

The family also recognise that the circumstances surrounding Lucy’s death have had a substantial impact on the midwives and clinicians involved. As the coroner highlighted during the inquest, the team involved in trying to save Lucy’s life worked extremely hard and the family are very thankful for this.  

Emma continued: “Sadly, despite the doctor’s best efforts, Lucy could not be saved. Her absence is felt deeply every day and her family hope that lessons can be learned from their tragic loss so that no other family has to go through what they have and are continuing to deal with.”

Arrow GIFReturn to news headlines

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP is a limited liability partnership registered in England and Wales with registered number OC311575 and is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under number 419867.

Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP