HDC: botched birth preventable

Ariana Grace, 2, suffers from cerebral palsy, epilepsy and seizures.
Ariana Grace, 2, suffers from cerebral palsy, epilepsy and seizures.

The Health and Disability Commissioner has condemned the Taranaki District Health Board, a doctor and midwife for their involvement in the mishandled birth of Ariana Grace Lawn in a report released today.

Ariana, now two and half, suffers from cerebral palsy, epilepsy and seizures.

The TDHB said it has accepted the findings of the HDC, which found it in breach of the code of health and disability services consumer rights and apologised to the Lawn family.

Taranaki DHB Chief Medical Advisor, Dr Greg Simmons said the DHB's thoughts were with the Lawn family at this difficult time.

"We sincerely apologise for the part our actions played two years ago and for the impact this has had on the Lawn family since then," Simmons said.

Since 2012 the TDHB had responded and implemented all the recommendations from the HDC report and had met with the Lawn family and listened to their concerns, he said.

''We do have a beautiful daughter in Ariana who brings us great joy but every day we are reminded that the health problems and disabilities we persevere with were preventable and our life could have taken a very different path,'' Ariana's parents Tim and Cerise Lawn said in a statement.

The HDC investigation into the birth of Ariana said the doctor and midwife, who have not been named, did not provide the expected care and failed to adhere to professional standards.

It also found the DHB did not have adequate systems in place to ensure safe care, guidelines were below par and a culture existed that compromised the care being given.

Both the doctor and midwife will be referred to the Director of Proceedings, who will determined whether any further action will be taken against them.

Tim and Cerise said the hardest thing was waiting more than two years for those involved to admit they were in the wrong and the apology had only come at the commissioner's instruction.

''The most disappointing part is that we had no communication from anyone at the hospital at the time or soon after Ariana's birth telling us the truth. It is this lack of standing up and accepting that mistakes were made that caused us anger and resentment,'' they said.

''We had no idea how seriously ill Ariana was after her birth and no one talked to us. The maternity system and doctors and nurses that we totally trusted let us down the most.''

The couple said they had fought for years to get to the bottom of what happened, believing for a time they were at fault.

''We are determined that this fight not been in vain. We have met with the DHB and are satisfied they are doing their best to ensure things are in place to reduce the risk of this happening again but we still feel angry that it has taken this long. We will not stop here and we will keep a vigilant watch always,'' they said.

Simmons said there were about 1400 babies born each year in Taranaki.

"If even one of those has an unexpected poor outcome then that is one too many. We aim to provide high quality maternity care but regrettably in the Lawn family's case we have let them down and we are very sorry for the pain this has caused them.

"I want to reassure the Taranaki community that the TDHB has a dedicated team of staff providing a high quality maternity service. We have learnt from the mistakes made and have made changes to our maternity service that will significantly reduce the possibility of this happening again."

The Lawn family hopes their story and battle for the truth will encourage others to take a stand.

They encouraged families to like Ariana Grace on Facebook and to search for information on the red flags for expectant parents at out www.aim.org.nz

Taranaki Daily News