Publish date

19 July 2017

Tragic medical negligence case after death of twin girls settled after five long years

Leading South East medical negligence solicitors, Thomson Snell & Passmore, announced today on behalf of Elizabeth Dunks the settlement of her medical negligence case against three NHS Hospital Trusts (Basildon, Southend and King’s College, London). Ms Dunks’ twin baby girls, Eliza and Beth died, within minutes of each other, when their life support machines were turned off, at just six days old, in April 2012.

18 days before the emergency caesarean section that delivered the twins, on 16 March 2012, at just over 24 weeks pregnant, Mrs Dunks felt a gush of wetness and thought that her waters had broken. She tried repeatedly to contact her midwife, and then the antenatal unit at Basildon Hospital to seek advice.  She did not get through to the hospital but left messages expecting them to call her back, but they did not.  She raised her concerns again a few days later with a second midwife from another hospital (Southend) who dismissed her fluid loss as urinary incontinence.  On a third occasion, at Kings College Hospital, Mrs Dunks attempted to allay her remaining concerns about the continuing fluid loss, and she was again reassured that her waters had not broken.  But no further examination took place.  As a result Mrs Dunks’ pre-term rupture of membranes went undiagnosed for 18 days, and she was not given steroid injections, which would have potentially saved the lives of both twins, had they been given.

On 3 April 2012 Mrs Dunks umbilical cord came out whilst she was at home alone, and she was rushed to hospital for an emergency caesarean.   Both baby girls, Eliza London Dianne Dunks and Beth Serenity Valerie Dunks, were born with severely underdeveloped lungs and bleeds to the brain, due to the lack of any steroids during the pregnancy, and their chance of survival was very low.  Every effort was made to save the lives of the babies and they were taken, by emergency transfer, to the Acute Neonatal Treatment centre in Addenbrookes Hospital in Cambridge.  Tragically, despite the teams’ best efforts, and on the advice of the doctors, the decision was taken, by Mr and Mrs Dunks to turn off the life support machines. Eliza and Beth Dunks were both baptized, and they died whilst Mrs Dunks held them on her chest for the first time.

The case began in the High Court in London yesterday, and only at that late stage, after nearly five years of flat denials from the three Hospitals involved, did the Hospitals finally agree to pay damages to Mrs Dunks and her husband, so they can now consider having a family again, using the damages awarded.

James Cahan, Partner at Thomson Snell & Passmore and medical negligence specialist who represented the Dunks family, said:

“As a result of the poor conduct of the hospitals (and their legal team) throughout this litigation, two things are very clear,  firstly, they have caused Mr and Mrs Dunks over two years of additional mental anguish, and secondly, they have ended up wasting a significant amount of public money by conceding on the steps of the court.  All of this was completely avoidable.

After obtaining the evidence of eight medical experts, and years of litigation, it took the wise words of a High Court Judge yesterday, before the NHS Trusts in this case properly considered their position. 

Regrettably it is all too common for this situation to arise on our cases with the NHS, and due to the amount of public money this wastes, it is currently the subject of a national audit.

If the three trusts in this case, and their legal advisors, had properly addressed the various issues involved from the start, huge sums of public money would have been saved.  Settlement proposals, made by Mrs Dunks in 2015, were rejected by NHS Resolution (then the NHSLA), and the failure to deal properly with this case, until the days leading to a High Court trial has led to vastly increased legal fees and experts’ fees on both sides, very high insurance premiums, not to mention the waste of court time.  In addition to all of that, Mr and Mrs Dunks have been forced to wait a further two years before damages were made available to them so they can now consider having another child, to try to rebuild their lives after the tragic loss of both of their daughters.”

Mrs Dunks, was a lifelong Christian and had ambitions of  becoming a reverend, however the tragic events that occurred shook her faith to its core.  With the support of her family and the church she has been able to navigate through the events that followed and she has managed to reaffirm her faith.  Now Elizabeth Dunks and her husband Jon’s main wish is to raise awareness nationally about what happened to them, to try and make sure it doesn’t happen again to another family.

Heathervale House reception

Keep up to date with our newsletters and events