Midwife rejects baby death ruling

19:33, May 08 2012
mustering strength
MUSTERING STRENGTH: Linda and Robert Barlow with son Orry, 3, pictured in 2011, cherish tiny moulds of Adam's foot and hand.

Robert and Linda Barlow want someone held accountable for the death of their newborn son Adam, but two years on their midwife refuses to accept a coroner's ruling criticising her inexperience.

A Hamilton midwife, herself heavily pregnant, is defending her actions after being slammed by a coroner for multiple failures in care that contributed to the death of baby Adam Barlow.

Jennifer Rowan comes under fire from coroner Gordon Matenga in his findings, made public today, into the death of baby Adam who died following a prolonged labour in October 2009.

His mother, Linda Barlow, suffered life-threatening injuries as a result of the labour.

While medical staff believed Adam was stillborn, Mr Matenga ordered an inquest after the Barlow's read medical notes indicating their baby son showed signs of life.

Speaking to the Waikato Times yesterday, Mrs Barlow's husband Robert said he felt a thorough investigation was warranted and hoped the Health and Disability Commissioner would now investigate Miss Rowan and "hold her accountable for her actions that day".


"Adam was a robust, healthy, full-term baby and it is important that everything is learnt from his death to help others," Mr Barlow said.

In his findings, Mr Matenga ruled that Adam died due to intrapartum asphyxia – a lack of oxygen to the brain and vital tissues during labour.

He also outlined a "series of failures" by midwife Jennifer Rowan that contributed to Adam's death including failure to recognise that the progress of labour was not normal; failure to convey urgency on transfer to Waikato Hospital staff and failure by both Miss Rowan and hospital staff to recognise the urgency of Mrs Barlow's delivery.

"[Miss Rowan] was reluctant to accept her inexperience and there was a distinct reluctance from the midwifery experts to accept that experience has a significant role to play in producing competent and confident midwife LMC's [Lead Maternity Carer's]," Mr Matenga said.

Miss Rowan, who graduated in December 2008, refused to answer questions when contacted by Waikato Times yesterday.

"You'll have to go through my lawyer," she said.

A statement from Miss Rowan's lawyer Carla Humphrey expressed her client's "sincere condolences" to the Barlow family.

"She regrets any part that she may have played in this tragic outcome," Ms Humphrey said.

"She does not, however, accept her training and degree of experience contributed to the tragic outcome in this case.

"With the greatest of respect, my view of the evidence as stated in my submissions, differs to that of the coroner," Ms Humphrey said.

Ms Humphrey said her client was "distressed" when the coroner chose to give her client's evidence "little weight" after finding it "self-serving".

However, Mr Matenga based his comments on a number of reasons including the "clear gaps" in Miss Rowan's clinical notes stating "she was trying to piece together the clinical picture from an incomplete record".


October 2009: Baby Adam Barlow dies after a 15-hour labour at Waikato Hospital that nearly kills his mother, Linda. Staff said he was stillborn.

But a coroner later ordered an inquest when Adam's parents read medical notes saying he had showed signs of life.

June 2010: After the Dominion Post reveals the story of Adam's death, Health Minister Tony Ryall calls the case "deeply distressing" and says officials are investigating how new midwives can gain more experience. M

idwife Jennifer Rowan's lawyer says her client "feels for the family" but the care was "generally reasonable" and she welcomed the inquest.

February 2011: A two-week inquest is held, involving 25 witnesses and nine lawyers before coroner Gordon Matenga.

Obstetrician Sylvia Rosevear told the inquest Adam's death was "needless" and his mother was the subject of "gross neglect in labour".

Adam's parents make a statement forgiving everyone involved in their son's "catastrophic" birth.

Waikato Times