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Friday, 18 January, 2002, 16:56 GMT
Neglect contributed to mother's death
Laura Touche with her husband Peter
Early treatment of Mrs Touche "could have saved her"
A woman who died after giving birth at an exclusive private hospital was neglected, a jury has found.

Laura Touche died from a stroke days after giving birth to twins at the Portland hospital in London.

An inquest jury found she had died from natural causes contributed to by neglect.

After the verdict Mrs Touche's family called for more regulation of the private sector.

The Portland Hospital
The Portland treats celebrity patients

Mrs Touche's husband, Peter, whose great-grandfather set up the chartered accountants that became Deloitte and Touche, had fought for the right to an inquest into his wife's death.

St Pancras Coroners' Court in London heard that Mrs Touche, a direct descendant of former US president Thomas Jefferson, died from a brain haemorrhage nine days after the operation in February 1999.

St Pancras coroner Dr Susan Hungerford said there had been "a catastrophic and at present inexplicable error" in the treatment of Mrs Touche after her Caesarean.

Dr Hungerford said she accepted practice at the hospital had been changed in the wake of the death but said she intended to report details of the tragedy to the UK Central Council of Nursing and Midwifery.

Dr Hungerford said: "The principal and most catastrophic and at present inexplicable error was the failure by (midwife) Mrs Grace Bartholomew to carry out routine but vital post-operative monitoring."

Agonising headache

Dr Hungerford said other staff, realising the seriousness of the situation, had thought to treat Mrs Touche, but said it was already too late.

She said: "By the time the seriousness of the condition of Laura Touche had been grasped the situation had sadly reached the point when the course of events could not be stopped."

The inquest heard she was not given basic medical checks for some two and a half hours after surgery, despite hospital protocol stating that she should have been checked every 15 minutes.

Her blood pressure was normal before the operation but when she complained of an agonising headache afterwards her blood pressure was found to be abnormally high.

We have tried to ensure that the individual failure that the coroner spoke of will, as far as humanly possible, not happen again

Portland Hospital spokesman

She was transferred to the Middlesex Hospital and from there to the National Hospital for Neurology and Neurosurgery at Queen's Square, where she died on 15 February.

Portland Hospital spokesman Neil Huband said after the hearing that everyone involved had been "moved" by the tragedy.

"We are very sorry for what happened. We deeply regret her untimely death and everyone of us hopes that Peter (her husband), the twins and her family can now begin to move on and enjoy a better future."

He said the tragedy was down to "individual failure" and that the hospital had undertaken an investigation and had, where appropriate, made changes to its procedures.

Lessons learned

Mr Huband said the hospital, established in 1982, was recognised as "upholding the very best traditions of medical care for women and children".

"Levels of staffing, of training and of experience of both the specialist doctors and nurses and midwives are higher than at many, many other hospitals, both NHS and private," he said.

"We have tried to ensure that the individual failure that the coroner spoke of will, as far as humanly possible, not happen again.

"Lessons were learned and where appropriate systems were improved."

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See also:

15 Jan 02 | England
Mother died after 'lack of care'
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