The report on Channel 4 News last night showed interviews with families who have had to fight for an inquest to be heard, following the death of their child.  For some of these families, the hospital Trust failed to report that their baby had died after birth, and instead incorrectly termed the birth a 'still birth', meaning an inquest would technically not be required.  One family sought help from a solicitor in order to persuade the coroner that an inquest should be held and a third waited over two years for their inquest to be heard.  Sadly, it would seem that these are not one-off incidents.

An inquest should be held when a person dies unexpectedly.  The purpose of an inquest is to establish the circumstances surrounding a person’s death, including how, when and why the death occurred.  Whilst inquests cannot establish that someone is at fault, they can help families to understand what happened. In some cases, this can identify failings in the care provided which might in turn lead to a clinical negligence claim.  On some occasions it is possible to secure a recommendation from the coroner, which is a statement of failings in the care provided and formalises the lessons to be learnt to protect others in the future. Furthermore the inquest can help establish evidence to support a civil claim in negligence against a Trust, so it is important for proper representation by specialist solicitors at inquests in appropriate cases.

Whatever the outcome, inquests are sometimes the only way families get answers and feel some closure after losing a loved one.  Disturbingly, this justice is being denied to some families because of the action of a number of Trusts and even coroners, according to the Channel 4 News’ investigation.

Anthony Collins Solicitors have a dedicated specialist medical negligence team (top ranked in the Legal 500 and Chambers directories) for this type of legal specialism. We  represent many families at inquests every year; sadly often bereaved families who have lost a baby or child.  We guide families through this unknown and sometimes worrying process, liaise with other professionals involved (including legal representatives for the Trust) and ultimately ensure the family is heard and hopefully their questions are answered.

For more information

If you would like more information about this article or any other medical negligence or inquest-related query, please contact Ann Houghton, Solicitor in the Clinical Negligence department on 0121 212 7478 or ann.houghton@anthonycollins.com.