Spills: The baby is born dead

Comparison Failed: The Civil Council left little doubt what the verdict might look like. Symbolic photo: Sebra / Fotolia

Comparison Failed: The Civil Council left little doubt what the verdict might look like. Symbolic photo: Sebra / Fotolia

GIESSEN – The scene is still very close to the mother's eyes: The doctor sits in the maternity hospital in front of the monitor, but the screen remains black. The rhythm of the small heart is not displayed. Because they don't fight anymore. It was obviously three days before everything was in order. Her gynecologist sent a woman satisfied home after the same measurement – cardiotocography (CTG). But on the night of June 9, 2009, the child the family was looking forward to was born dead. Since then, "loss is ubiquitous" – and it is difficult for the mother to cope with everyday life. Niklas Schmitt. The diagnosis of specialists in psychiatry and psychotherapy is clear: post-traumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and moderate depression.

"An additional burden for my client is that she has had to deal with this process for years," adds attorney Claudia Boysen. In fact, the Gießen District Court has been dealing with a tragic case since December 2015. In a civil lawsuit, a woman gynecologist sued € 20,000 in damages and claimed € 1721.60 in funeral costs. And now that the psychiatrist has presented his report, the verdict could be released in September.

Heart failure

The Fifth Chamber is already very clear on what the decision might look like. Finally, Chairwoman Beate Bremer has already dictated a consensual agreement of 18,000 euros. For a doctor – and especially professional liability insurance – obviously too much. "There are comparable cases of EUR 6,000," says Cornelius Attorney Maria Thora.

However, there is little doubt that gynecologist Giessen really made a serious medical error. More than two years ago, a gynecology specialist commissioned by the Civil Chamber came to this conclusion. Accordingly, there was a "Type II slowdown" – a decline in a child's heart activity. This is usually caused by a lack of oxygen from the fetus. And that fall could again be signs of an imminent death threat. "The expert determined that the gynecologist should continue the CTG," a district court expert's spokesman said in an interview with this newspaper. This would save the child life "with high probability". But this report was unmistakably insufficient. The head physician for psychiatry and psychotherapy at the Hardtwald Clinic in Bad Zwesten needed to further check whether the mother's health problems were due only to the birth of the dead baby. Especially since she is already in a "difficult situation," Attorney Thora says.

The doctor sensitively reports about an interview with her mother in her office. "It was a trait that the subject had been on the dead baby's grave three weeks earlier and had the same tree there as outside my window." That triggered a "flashback" to the woman's dramatic loss that night.

It is common ground that the plaintiff's life was affected by serious consequences. Beginning with an ambivalent relationship with her father, who with her traditional imagination gave her a difficult youth, compounded by early diabetes. After the turn of the millennium, her first daughter was born – with a severe disability, a great need for care and a shortened life span. When she quickly became pregnant again, after a long break, the couple decided to initially take care of the entire sick child. To her great joy, a healthy daughter was later born, however the mother lost in 2007, a baby in the early stages of pregnancy. "The relationship with the wife supports and releases the marriage," the assessee adds. This "cherished life" is fueled by the love of her two little girls. "By 2009, she was able to cope with the load chain," the expert acknowledges this momentum of the woman. He adds: "There is no indication of mental illness before the incision." The mother coped with her daily routine and "despite the impression that she was able to catch up." The stillbirth did strike, however, exacerbated by the fact that "medical malpractice" was likely to occur.

That experience led to "increased vulnerability." The 60-year-old paints a picture of a long-time strong woman who pushed her boundaries to the limit. The birth of a dead baby, linked to a "death threat to one's own person", resulted in the mother being unable to do everything. So she switched to therapy. "It's already striking for a person with his personality structure," the expert explains. "She wants to do everything herself. This decision is an indication that the disorder is manifesting itself."

Although the lawyer is trying to ask a gynecologist if chronic back problems, which have emerged as a painful disorder since 2009 with the prosecutor, could be a possible trigger for depression. But Niklas Schmitt maintains in his assessment of the traumatic event: "If one is found to have made a serious mistake and is probably responsible for the death of the child, the problem of their own guilt is relativized." This could somewhat alleviate the "heightened caring activity" that makes her unable to calm down at all. "He is always afraid that an emergency may occur."

Compensated criminal complaint

Although the House is expected to award the mother – in no way excessive – compensation for the pain, the legal dispute could continue. Meanwhile, the Giessen Attorney General's Office is investigating allegations of forgery and fraud by a gynecologist based on a complaint by Attorney Boysen. "The background is that a record of a child's heartbeat was filed in civil proceedings, which could possibly have been manipulated," said restrained prosecutor Thomas Hauburger, a law enforcement agency's spokesman. The doctor asked for an opinion. "So far we have no comment."

For Cornelius lawyer Maria Thor, this is "the next phase of escalation." Perhaps this should first and foremost increase the pressure to finally acknowledge the unspeakable suffering of the mother.