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Parents taking legal action over baby Henry's death five days after delivery

The family of a baby boy who died five days after birth is taking legal action against the National Maternity Hospital over claims he suffered a skull fracture during an instrument delivery.

An inquest into the death of Henry McMahon at Dublin City Coroner’s Court heard he died from brain damage caused by a lack of oxygen.

Dublin coroner Dr Myra Cullinane recorded a narrative verdict given the complexity of the evidence, which she said was “a neutral summary” of how he died.

Baby Henry died on September 23, 2017, in Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children, in Crumlin, on the first wedding anniversary of his parents, Simon and Sorcha McMahon, from Stillorgan, five days after he was born at the Holles Street hospital.

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The boy had been diagnosed in an ante-natal clinic with a congenital heart condition, known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

Pathologist Michael McDermott, who carried out a post-mortem on the body of baby Henry, said the immediate cause of death was a significant lack of oxygen to the brain. He said associated factors were a skull fracture and his congenital heart condition, while bleeding between the baby’s skin and skull was a contributory factor.

He said the injuries were consistent with happening around the time of the baby’s birth, although there was no direct evidence he suffered brain damage directly as a result of the use of delivery instruments.

The inquest heard the baby’s condition was operable with a high success rate and plans were in place to transfer him to Our Lady’s Hospital for surgery directly after birth.

At an earlier hearing in July, evidence was heard that a forceps and vacuum cup had been used by medical staff during the baby’s birth.

Sorcha was induced on September 18 following a high-risk pregnancy, complicated by diabetes, hypertension and the baby’s heart condition.

During labour, hospital staff became concerned about the baby’s heart rate and a vacuum cup was used three times unsuccessfully to aid delivery.

A specialist registrar, Dr Maria Farren, denied Ms McMahon’s claim she had also attempted delivery using a forceps.

The inquest heard consultant obstetrician Professor Donal Brennan was called to attend Ms McMahon and he manually rotated the baby’s position before delivery using forceps at 4.53pm.

In evidence, Prof Brennan said he had “no doubt” some of the baby’s injuries occurred during delivery but he could not say by which instrument or when they happened.

Prof Brennan said the nature of baby Henry’s delivery was very rare and he had only witnessed such a birth two or three times in his career.

He said a protocol on how such births should be recorded by a doctor or midwife was being drafted following a review of the circumstances of baby Henry’s death.

Lawyers for the McMahons said legal action against the National Maternity Hospital was “at an advanced stage”.

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