Parents of baby mistakenly declared dead at The Royal Free Hospital speak of their pain

Sebastian Sparrow with mother Sally and father Jamie before he died

Sebastian Sparrow with mother Sally and father Jamie before he died - Credit: Archant

The parents of a baby who was mistakenly pronounced dead and left dying alone in The Royal Free Hospital have spoken of their ‘unimaginable trauma’ following an inquest into their son’s death.

Sally and Jamie Sparrow took legal action after becoming increasingly frustrated with the investigation into baby Sebastian’s care.

Coroner Mary Hassell reached a narrative conclusion to the inquest, finding that it was now impossible to say what had caused the brain damage which ultimately killed Sebastian.

Responding to the verdict through their solicitor, Mr and Mrs Sparrow said it should not be necessary for families in their position to take specialist legal advice simply to establish the facts.

They said: “Following the unimaginable trauma of these events, one of the most worrying ongoing aspects for us has been the NHS’s wholly inadequate investigation into what may have happened.

“The Serious Incident Report prepared by Camden and Islington Trust failed even to comment on the fact that the hospital mis-diagnosed Sebastian’s death.

“Nor did it even consider the possibility that the trauma to Sebastian’s head was as a result of the multiple failed attempts of junior obstetricians to deliver his head.”

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Sebastian was born by caesarian section on November 6, 2013 after Mrs Sparrow experienced a prolonged second stage of labour.

Considered healthy until the point of delivery, the baby was born with no heartbeat, and resuscitation attempts were abandoned after half an hour as paediatricians believed him to be dead.

But Sebastian had not died, and revived himself an hour and a half later, after medical staff had dismissed the gasping sounds he was making as “post-death agonal gasps” and “spinal reflexes”.

However, he was severely brain damaged, and died two days later at University College Hospital.

The Sparrows said the lack of rigour in C&I’s investigation had added to their anguish.

They said: “It means that families like ourselves must spend years simply trying to establish the facts of what happened to their loved ones, reliving the worst moments of our lives, time and time again.

“This reluctance to properly investigate and report has to stop – the culture must change – they must learn from their mistakes and they cannot keep burying their heads in the sand.”

Solicitor urges government to fund representation for bereaved families at inquests

The solicitor representing the Sparrows said the government must act to end the inequality which means that only those with financial means can properly pursue cases of medical negligence.

Father Jamie Sparrow, an accountant, and mother Sally, herself a solicitor, instructed a barrister to question witnesses at the inquest into their son’s death at St Pancras Coroners’ Court.

Commenting on the Sparrows’ experience, their solicitor, Grainne Barton, said: “Before we were instructed, the family was dealing with all the correspondence, trying to obtain documents and consider how to direct questions – navigating a complex process entirely on their own.

“Expecting them to do this, whilst going through a hugely traumatic time, is both unfair and completely unrealistic.”

Ms Barton added: “Families in this position should not be left isolated by the state, and a fund should exist to help support them and provide access to legal help. We urge the Government to fund this representation to all families where deaths in hospital are to be investigated by the coroner.”