An inquest has ruled that a locum doctor’s failings directly contributed to the death of a baby who was born with a stomach defect. Locum Emmanuel Towuaghanste, known as Mr Towu, performed an unnecessary emergency operation on baby Paul Mitchelhill who was born with ‘exomphalos major’. The condition meant that some of Paul’s stomach and liver were covered in a membrane and protruding from his body.

The inquest was told that Paul was in a stable condition prior to the surgery and independent experts told the inquest that they wouldn’t have operated immediately to rectify the birth defect.

Mr Towu also failed to recognise the symptoms of abdominal compartment syndrome, which the baby developed after surgery. The inquest heard from independent experts who confirmed if Mr Towu had operated for a second time to relieve the pressure in Paul’s abdomen he may have survived. Instead, Mr Towu did not heed his colleague’s concerns and said that the baby needed more fluids. Paul died in his mother’s arms the following day.

The coroner recorded a narrative verdict and said she will pass on her findings to the General Medical Council. Speaking to the baby’s parents, she said: “I would like to extend to you both my very sincere personal condolences on the tragic loss of your son.”

Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust said: “Newcastle Hospitals very much regrets this tragic death. This arose out of the refusal of a locum surgeon to respond to the professional concerns of various committed expert and experienced medical, surgical and nursing staff.”

Richard Baker was instructed by Hugh James and represented baby Paul’s parents.


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