Failure to diagnose and treat sepsis led to baby death

17 October 2023

Failure to diagnose and treat sepsis led to baby death

In this tragic case, one day old Riyad Ali died on 16th July 2005 at Ipswich Hospital.

Mrs Ali was originally advised by doctors that genetic factors were the cause of her son’s death. No post-mortem was carried out because the trust advised the family that a skin sample would be sufficient to confirm his cause of death. This ultimately proved to be incorrect because, despite extensive testing, no genetic cause was ever found for Riyad’s illness. 

In July 2015, whilst pregnant with another child, Mrs Ali became aware that a Serious Untoward Investigation (SUI) had been conducted at the time of Riyad’s death and that this had highlighted a number of failings. In breach of their duty to Mrs Ali (these days this is embodied in the Duty of Candour) the trust had failed to inform Mrs Ali that the investigation had been conducted, or to offer her the opportunity to have any input into the investigation. Mrs Ali contacted the coroner, who agreed to open an inquest.

Process of the case

We were instructed by Mrs Ali to investigate a potential clinical negligence claim and to represent the family at inquest. During our investigation, with our experts in neonatology and paediatric inherited metabolic disorders, we established that on the balance of probabilities Riyad had died from sepsis and that it was likely, had he had received the appropriate care, he would have survived. This was obviously extremely upsetting for Mrs Ali and her family, and completely different from the trust’s assertions, but they needed answers.

Mrs Ali suffered a significant psychological injury because of the investigation being withheld from her and from years of blaming herself for Riyad’s death; she had had to try to accept that he had died due to hereditary or genetic factors. A detailed Letter of Claim was prepared, in accordance with the Pre-Action Protocol for the Resolution of Clinical Negligence Disputes, setting out how the trust had breached their duty of care to Riyad and Mrs Ali and the steps that should have been taken to have avoided both Riyad’s death and Mrs Ali’s injury. In the Letter of Response the trust made some admissions of breach of duty, however they argued that the outcome would have been the same and no offers of settlement were forthcoming. 

We proceeded with litigation and following mutual exchange of expert reports, the experts for both parties discussed the case and their respective evidence. They produced a joint statement in which it was clear that the hospital’s evidence had changed and that genetic factors were unlikely to be the cause of Riyad’s death. The trust subsequently agreed to settle the claim. 

Following the conclusion of the case, the trust offered Mrs Ali and her family a written apology for the failures in Riyad’s care and for not informing her of the investigation, which had contributed so profoundly to her grief and suffering. This acceptance of fault by the trust was very important to the family and could only be achieved, in this case, by them initiating a legal claim and instructing solicitors.

Our comments

Mrs Ali waited eighteen years for an understanding of what really happened to her son and for closure surrounding the circumstances his death. Following her discovery of the SUI, and through her own determination, she was able to persuade the coroner to open an inquest some ten years after Riyad’s death. It was essential that she had help with the inquest process and with the medical negligence claim, so she instructed Shoosmiths.

Partner and medical negligence expert Susan Prior and Associate (FCILEx) Natalie Blunden were able to steer and support her through the legal process. It is very sad that Mrs Ali and her family had to go through this experience, but we are pleased to have helped them get the answers they need. 

Client comment

Mrs Ali thanked Natalie Blunden, Sue Prior and counsel Christopher Johnson (Counsel) for being so invested and committed to her case. “I really appreciated the time that was taken and that it was all about Riyad, which is so important to me”. 



This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024

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