Kent

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust Caesarean death 'avoidable'

Frances Cappuccini Image copyright PA
Image caption Frances Cappuccini died at Tunbridge Wells Hospital in October 2012

The death of a woman just hours after a Caesarean birth was wholly avoidable, a court has heard.

Frances Cappuccini, 30, suffered heavy bleeding at Tunbridge Wells Hospital on 9 October 2012 and was operated on but never woke from the anaesthetic.

Inner London Crown Court heard she died after going into cardiac arrest.

Dr Errol Cornish denies manslaughter by gross negligence, while the Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust denies corporate manslaughter.

It is the first time an NHS trust has been charged with corporate manslaughter since the offence was introduced in 2008.

The prosecution alleges the 67-year-old consultant anaesthetist, of Holmbury Park in Bromley, south-east London, was one of two doctors responsible for Mrs Cappuccini after the operation.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Dr Errol Cornish is accused of manslaughter by gross negligence

Dr Nadeem Azeez, who, the prosecution said, was primarily responsible for the care of the primary school teacher, is not on trial, having left the country.

Prosecutor John Price QC said Mrs Cappuccini was a "healthy young woman", adding her death in such circumstances after giving birth to her second child by Caesarean section therefore was "wholly unexpected" and "wholly avoidable".

'Grossly negligent'

Opening the first day of the trial, he said both doctors had failed in the "elementary task of protecting her airway" to ensure she safely came round from the anaesthetic.

The prosecution alleges that if one or both doctors are found to be grossly negligent, causing the death of Mrs Cappuccini, the Kent NHS trust can be said to have employed someone they knew or should have known was not suitably qualified or trained for their role.

The court was told a tube helping Mrs Cappuccini to breathe after the operation was removed and despite it appearing she was having difficulties breathing there were delays in replacing it.

Mr Price said: "Dr Azeez should at this stage have asked for assistance and was very seriously at fault for not doing so."

The court heard how Dr Cornish had been called in to help and spent about 50 minutes in the room. However, he failed to immediately make sure Mrs Cappuccini was re-intubated, thereby contributing to the cause of her death, the hearing was told.

"He too was grossly negligent," Mr Price said.

The prosecution alleges Dr Azeez was not properly supervised and Dr Cornish had never gained a post-graduate qualification in anaesthesia which was recognised in the UK.

The trial continues.

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