A senior NHS gynaecologist was accused of accidentally decapitating a baby’s head inside his mother’s womb.
Dr Vaishnavy Laxman, 43, should have given her 30-year old patient an emergency Caesarean section as the premature infant was in a breech position, a medical tribunal heard.
She has been cleared of serious misconduct and can return to work, the tribunal has ruled.
Instead, she told the mother, who was 25 weeks pregnant, to push as she pulled on the baby’s legs while attempting to carry out the birth naturally, at Ninewells Hospital in Dundee in March 2014.
This caused the infant’s legs, arms and torso to become detached, leaving the head still in the mother’s womb. Two other doctors completed a c-section on the woman to remove the infant’s head before it was ‘re-attached’ so his mother could hold him before she said goodbye.
The Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service (MTPS) panel said the child was already dead before he was decapitated during the bungled 15-minute delivery.
Dr Laxman, who qualified in Chennai, India, denied wrongdoing, and argued the baby would have died had a c-section been carried out. It was agreed by the MPTS panel that ‘the only appropriate course’ for the baby, known as baby B, was a caesarean section, as he was in the breech position, with a prolapsed cord and low heart rate, and the mother’s cervix was less than 4cm dilated.
On 6 June, the tribunal cleared Dr Laxman of serious misconduct and said her fitness to practise was not impaired. It ruled the decision to proceed with a natural birth was ‘negligent and fell below the standards ordinarily to be expected’ but did not amount to serious misconduct.
A single error of judgement in very difficult circumstances
The panel’s written decision said: ‘The failing which the tribunal has found proved was not sustained, persistent or repeated, but rather a single error of judgement made in very difficult circumstances.
‘The tribunal was satisfied that throughout the attempted delivery of baby B, Dr Vilvanathan Laxman believed that she was acting in both patient A’s and baby B’s best interests, and that she genuinely believed that proceeding with a vaginal delivery was the optimum course to take in the circumstances which existed at the time.’
The panel added: ‘The tribunal is satisfied that Dr Vilvanathan Laxman has expressed genuine and appropriate remorse for what happened, and she candidly accepted responsibility as the consultant in charge in theatre that day.
‘Further, at no point has Dr Vilvanathan Laxman sought to blame others for what happened or to minimise her actions.’
It was ruled Dr Laxman should not receive a formal warning over the case and an interim order on her medical registration has now been revoked.