Sunday, August 14th, 2022

Inquests to be held into deaths of new mothers who died from herpes | Maternal mortality

A coroner will investigate the deaths of two women from herpes following childbirth, amid fears they contracted the virus from their surgeon.

Kim Sampson, 29, and Samantha Mulcahy, 32, died weeks apart after their babies were delivered by caesarean section at different hospitals in Kent.

Their families have campaigned for answers as to whether they contracted the infection from their surgeon, after a BBC investigation found the women were treated by the same person.

The inquests have been listed to open and adjourn in Maidstone on 4 January, with a pre-inquest review the following month and full inquests at a later date.

Sampson’s mother, Yvette, said: “We’ve wanted this since Kim died in 2018 – it’s been a long time coming. We hope we are finally going to get answers to the questions we’ve always had – both for ourselves and for Kim’s children.”

Herpes infections are commonly found in the genitals and on the face, often with mild symptoms. Sampson’s baby boy, her second child, was delivered at Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother hospital in Margate in May 2018, but she died at the end of the month in hospital in London after becoming infected.

In July the same year, first-time mother Mulcahy died from an infection caused by the virus at William Harvey hospital in Ashford.

Dr Rebecca Martin, chief medical officer for East Kent hospitals, said: “Our deepest sympathies are with the families and friends of Kimberley and Samantha.

“We will do everything possible to support these inquests and our thoughts are with Kimberley and Samantha’s families at this time.”

A coroner had previously ruled out inquests into their deaths but now this decision has been reversed.

The families had initially received a letter from coroner Katrina Hepburn saying there would not be an inquest for either case, acknowledging the similarities but saying there was “no connection”.

Sampson had a good pregnancy but struggled with the birth and she kept saying the baby was stuck, her mother said. Doctors performed a C-section to deliver her son and Sampson needed a blood transfusion after injuries sustained in the operation.

She was rushed back to hospital following discharge after the operation as doctors believed she had bacterial sepsis. She was given antibiotics, but her condition worsened.

Mulcahy went into labour four weeks ahead of her due date. Her hospital was part of the same trust as that where Sampson was treated. She had 17 hours of contractions and was taken for a C-section after some worrying blood test results. After giving birth, Mulcahy was kept in for observation. She became increasingly unwell, and doctors also thought she had bacterial sepsis.

She spent four days in intensive care, where a doctor suggested antiviral medication, but the microbiology department advised them to continue with antibiotics.

Mulcahy died from multi-organ failure following a “disseminated herpes simplex type 1 infection”, a postmortem found. Both women had a “primary infection” which means that this was the first time they had contracted the virus and neither of their children were found to have it.

Sampson’s family requested documents from Public Health England which revealed emails from the trust, some NHS bodies, staff at PHE, and a private lab called Micropathology.

The messages showed that the same two clinicians – a midwife and the surgeon who carried out the C-sections – had been involved in both births.

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