NHS trust and anaesthetist cleared over Caesarean mother’s death

Published: Thursday 28th January 2016 by The News Editor

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An NHS trust and an anaesthetist on trial over the death of a mother hours after giving birth to her second son have been cleared after the landmark case collapsed.

Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trust was accused of corporate manslaughter over the death of schoolteacher Frances Cappuccini, 30, in the first prosecution of a health service body since the offence was introduced in 2008.

Locum consultant anaesthetist Errol Cornish, 68, was accused of gross negligence manslaughter over his role in the care of the mother-of-two, who died after postnatal surgery at Tunbridge Wells Hospital in Pembury, Kent, in October 2012.

But judge Mr Justice Coulson instructed the jury at Inner London Crown Court to acquit both defendants on Thursday, just over two weeks into their trial, having ruled on Wednesday that they had no case to answer.

In his ruling, which can be reported for the first time today, he praised the Cappuccini family’s “dignity” during the trial and said: “There is no question that Frances Cappuccini should not have died at the trust hospital on October 9.

“It’s inevitable that her family will want to know why she died and hold someone to account.”

But the judge outlined a series of flaws in the prosecution case, including evidence that showed some of locum Dr Cornish’s actions had been “about as far from a gross negligence manslaughter case as it is possible to be”. He also branded some of the arguments against the trust as “perverse”.

Mrs Cappuccini’s widower Tom, who had attended court throughout the trial, was not present as the foreman of the jury of 10 women and two men returned formal not guilty verdicts on the order of the judge.

Mr Justice Coulson told them that he had agreed with arguments from the defence barristers that neither had a case to answer.

He said: “On my direction, as a matter of law, both defendants are not guilty.”

Mrs Cappuccini lost more than two litres (around four pints) of blood after her second son Giacomo was born by Caesarean section at the hospital in Kent.

She was subsequently operated on for a postpartum haemorrhage, but never woke up from the anaesthetic.

She went into cardiac arrest just over three hours after the operation had finished on October 9 2012, and died at 4.20pm.

The trial heard that a second anaesthetist, Dr Nadeem Azeez, 53, was primarily responsible for Mrs Cappuccini’s care, but did not face a trial alongside them because he had returned to his native Pakistan.

The Crown Prosecution Service could face a legal bill likely to run into thousands of pounds after lawyers for the trust and Dr Cornish indicated they may seek to have their costs paid by the prosecution.

In a statement the trust said its sympathies were with Mrs Cappuccini’s family and “no outcome from these proceedings could bring any consolation to the family”.

It added: “The allegation of corporate manslaughter has been consistently denied by the trust and now also comprehensively rejected by the court.

“The trust regrets that the Crown Prosecution Service saw fit to pursue the charge in the first place, given the additions stress this will have caused all involved.”

Published: Thursday 28th January 2016 by The News Editor

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