ACT News

Obstetrician hits back at findings that he failed in childbirth death case

An obstetrician has attacked a coronial report that found he failed to properly treat a mother who died after childbirth at Calvary Hospital.

The death of Corrina Anne Medway, 32, was investigated in detail by the ACT Coroner's Court earlier this year.

Dr Andrew Foote said two other experienced doctors had seen Corrina Anne  Medway two hours before her death and agreed ...
Dr Andrew Foote said two other experienced doctors had seen Corrina Anne Medway two hours before her death and agreed with his own likely diagnosis of a pulmonary embolism, rather than hypertension. Photo: Melissa Adams

Mrs Medway was pregnant with twins, and was suffering pregnancy-induced hypertension, or abnormally high blood pressure.

Her blood pressure reached dangerous levels in the hours after she gave birth to twins, leading to a massive stroke.

Dr Andrew Foote was found by the ACT Coroner's Court to have failed in a childbirth fatality at Calvary Hospital
Dr Andrew Foote was found by the ACT Coroner's Court to have failed in a childbirth fatality at Calvary Hospital Photo: Graham Tidy

Mrs Medway was rushed to Canberra Hospital for urgent treatment, but never regained consciousness.

In findings handed down on Friday, Coroner Margaret Hunter was scathing of Mrs Medway's obstetrician, Dr Andrew Foote.

Anti-hypertensive drugs, which would have acted quickly to reduce blood pressure, were not used, despite being readily available and having proved effective at reducing Mrs Medway's blood pressure in the week leading up to the birth.

Dr Foote told the inquest he was wary of using the medication without a proper diagnosis, and said Mrs Medway's medical history suggested a blockage of an artery in the lung, or pulmonary embolism, rather than hypertension.

But another expert, Professor Shaun Brennecke, told the inquest there would have been no disadvantage in administering the anti-hypertensive medication, and said an opportunity had been lost to reverse the "uncommon but calamitous complication".

Ms Hunter agreed, finding that: "Dr Foote's failure to treat Ms Medway's acute pregnancy-induced hypertension ... resulted in her blood pressure continuing to escalate to a critical level which ultimately caused her cerebral haemorrhage and death."

On Monday, Dr Foote's clinic issued a statement saying the coroner's report suffered from two "fundamental" errors of fact.

He refuted the coroner's findings that he saw two key blood pressure readings in the lead-up to Mrs Medway's death.

"The coroner's report was based on the assumption that Dr Foote knew of escalating blood pressure readings, however there was NO robust evidence presented at the inquest to substantiate this," a statement issued by his clinic said.

Dr Foote gave evidence to that effect during the inquest, and Ms Hunter considered and rejected it.

He said he didn't know of a high blood pressure reading taken at 6.15pm, because he had left the room.

A midwife contradicted that during the inquest, saying Dr Foote was in the room and was aware of the observation.

Dr Foote also denied ever being told of a catastrophically high blood pressure reading, taken at 7pm, which he said would have been a "game changer".

Ms Hunter said she had "doubts" about that evidence, but that, even if she was wrong, Dr Foote should have realised she needed hypertensives an hour before that reading regardless.

In his statement, Dr Foote said two other experienced doctors had seen Mrs Medway two hours before her death and agreed with his own likely diagnosis of a pulmonary embolism, rather than hypertension.

He said another physician had agreed with him that giving anti-hypertensive medication was not recommended in cases of pulmonary embolism.

Dr Foote said he had been cleared by the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency, and that the coroner overlooked evidence of other doctors who had backed up his treatment of Mrs Medway.