AN MP has asked a question in parliament in support of family’s campaign to change a law that prevents coroner’s from holding inquests into stillbirths during labour.
Warrington South MP David Mowat asked the Secretary of State for Justice earlier this month, with reference to the inquest into the death of Clara Tully, if he will bring forward proposals to allow inquests on infants who die during labour.
During the inquest, which heard how Clara died just 30 minutes after she was born, coroner Nicholas Rheinberg expressed frustration inquests cannot be held into stillbirths during labour, a frustration echoed by Clara’s mum Caroline, from Penketh.
MP Caroline Dinenage answered Mr Mowat’s question. She said: “Coroners must investigate all deaths which are sudden, unnatural, violent, or of unknown cause.
“This can include deaths of newborn babies such as in the tragic case of Clara Tully.
“Coroners cannot by law investigate cases in which a child has not lived independently of its mother, such as stillbirths.
“They can, however, open an investigation if there is any doubt over whether there was independent life, once they have received a report of the case. There are also hospital and medical investigations into stillbirths.
“The Chief Coroner, HHJ Peter Thornton QC, is considering actions to improve consistency and good practice.”
Miss Tully gave birth to Clara at Warrington Hospital on March 7 last year and the inquest found that a series of errors had occurred in the lead up to the birth but that enough changes had been made by the hospital since.
Mr Mowat said: “For any parent to lose a child is a tragedy and must be a very traumatic experience. For it to happen so soon after delivery, when there is so much, anticipation and hope, would be significantly more traumatic.
“That’s why it’s so important that, when things do go wrong, lessons are learned and people don’t make the same mistakes twice.
“The minister’s answer makes it clear that the at present the law only allows for an inquest when a child is born alive or if there is dispute over whether or not the child was alive when it was born.
“We feel that the current system of internal investigation for pre-birth deaths lacks the clout of a coroner’s inquest, but we are encouraged that the Chief Coroner is now reviewing guidelines and I will be writing to him about this specific case.”