Premature Baby Died Two Days after 'Breathing Tank Trial'

The Birmingham Post (England), May 22, 2008 | Go to article overview
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Premature Baby Died Two Days after 'Breathing Tank Trial'


Byline: By Lucy Collins

A father who agreed his newborn premature daughter could take part in a hospital trial did not give informed consent, a General Medical Council (GMC) hearing was told yesterday.

Stacey Henshall was born at just 27 weeks at North Staffordshire Hospital but died two days later after taking part in a "breathing tank trial".

Jane Sullivan, GMC counsel, referring to Stacey as Patient Seven, said that, within hours of the child's birth in February 1992, a nurse had approached her father, Carl Henshall, to discuss taking part in the trial.

She said 40-year-old Mr Henshall agreed his daughter could take part in the CNEP (continuous negative extrathoracic pressure) trial which involved the baby being placed in a low pressure incubator with her head sticking out. The effect on the baby was akin to that of an iron lung.

Ms Sullivan said: "According to Mr Henshall, the nurse explained that it was a new, kinder, more gentle form of ventilation."

She continued: "He agreed because he wanted the best for his baby. Mr Henshall thought he was just signing for a routine treatment. He didn't read what was on the form and at no time was he given any other documentation."

The form was witnessed by a doctor.

Ms Sullivan said Mr Henshall was not given time to consider his decision with his wife Deborah, 44, or an information sheet explaining the trial. She said: "From what Mr Henshall is saying, you may consider the consent he gave could not be said to be informed."

Ms Sullivan also told the hearing in Manchester that 34 medical practitioners were involved in gaining parents' consent and that they could not have had "significant hands-on experience of the trial".

Three doctors alleged to have carried out the breathing tank trials face charges of serious professional misconduct.

Dr Andrew Spencer, Dr Martin Samuels and controversial paediatrician Dr David Southall are accused of failing to ensure parents of premature babies were fully informed about breathing tank experiments.

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