Parents forgive for 'catastrophic' birth

16:00, Feb 18 2011

There was an emotional end to the inquest into the death of baby Adam Barlow yesterday as his parents made a joint statement forgiving everyone involved in their son's "catastrophic" birth.

"We don't want our son to be remembered as the baby who died at the hands of a flawed maternity system," Mr Barlow said. "We want him to be remembered as the baby who brought about positive change in the maternity sector for the good of future mothers and babies."

Mr and Mrs Barlow's request to make the statement brought an end to a two-week inquest involving 25 witnesses and nine lawyers before Coroner Gordon Matenga.

"In 14 years I have never dealt with this request," Mr Matenga said. "It is unusual, but I will allow it based on the fact that coroner's inquests have become a source of closure and healing for the people involved."

Supported by his wife and addressing Mr Matenga, Mr Barlow described how his family now wanted to move on. He made particular mention of their midwife, Jennifer Rowan. "Jenn was also a victim of the current training system which needs to be changed," he said. "She has had a terrible start to her career."

The training of midwives came under intense scrutiny yesterday as New Zealand Midwifery Council chairwoman Dr Sally Pairman was asked to outline current training and ongoing education for new graduate midwives.


Counsel to assist the coroner, Chris Gudsell QC, asked Dr Pairman whether the council would seriously consider compulsory supervision of all graduate midwives if it was a recommendation made by Mr Matenga.

"It's a case of whether it would be practical," Dr Pairman said. "We are already willing to make it compulsory for all new midwives to take part in our First Year of Practice Programme, where they have access to mentors, but this is something the government would need to commit to."

Earlier Dr Pairman said she would not comment specifically on the Barlow case in the event it could become the subject of further future investigations.

But the Barlows' lawyer, Kate Davenport, challenged this stand based on a report written by Dr Pairman last year which described a media report on the Barlow case as "media incompetence" and "misinforming the public".

"So you have already formed a view on this case?," Ms Davenport asked.

"That report was my personal opinion showing the general misreporting of midwifery cases in the media which portrays the profession as being unsafe," Dr Pairman said. "The media tend to overstate the role of the midwife and show a general lack of understanding of the systems and protocols in place."

In closing, Mr Matenga extended his condolences to the Barlows. He said he was sure none of the maternity care providers wanted the outcome they had experienced when baby Adam died after a prolonged labour in October 2009.

"I'm sure they have all learned something from this," he said. "More than that, I hope everyone in the system will learn from this so it doesn't happen to anyone else."

Mr Matenga is expected to release his findings later in the year.

Waikato Times