The government launched a new consultation on 26.03.19 to discuss whether Coroners should be allowed the power to investigate all stillbirths where the pregnancy was full term. Currently Coroner’s can only investigate and hold an inquest if a baby has shown signs of life after being born. They have no powers to investigate where a baby has been born stillborn but the pregnancy appeared healthy and proceeded to full term.
The new proposals would allow parents to find out if something went wrong and would mean that mistakes are highlighted to prevent future stillbirths.
Stillbirths are currently investigated by the Healthcare Safety Investigation Branch but some parents have raised concerns about inconsistencies with the investigations.
Ministers have therefore launched the consultation to find out the public’s views on whether Coroners should be able to investigate stillbirths. The system will ensure that both parents and the medical staff are involved at every stage of the process.
The Director of Research, Education and Policy at Sands (Stillbirth and neonatal death charity) said that ‘at Sands bereaved parents often tell us how vitally important it is to understand why their baby died and that the best legacy for their baby is to ensure that lessons are learned to prevent future deaths’.
Under the proposed new plans, Coroners will have the power to:
- Investigate full term still-births occurring from 37 weeks of pregnancy
- Consider whether any lessons can be learned to prevent future stillbirths
These proposals will not replace current investigations undertaken by the hospital and the Coroner will not need to gain consent or permission from a third party to exercise the new powers.
The UK’s rates of stillbirth are the lowest on record but for the few that do occur, the new system will allow bereaved parents to receive answers about what happened to their baby.
The consultation will be open for 12 weeks until 18.06.19. If the proposals are introduced, they would apply in England and Wales.
Moosa-Duke Solicitors are specialists in clinical negligence law and represent families at Inquests. If you believe that you or a family member have been a victim of negligence, due to private or NHS treatment, or require representation at an Inquest please do not hesitate to contact us on 0116 254 7456 to discuss your concerns.