Mum shares heartbreaking photos of her dead daughter born at 22 weeks – claiming doctors told her 'she's not fit for life'
Sophie Dennis, 34, claims that little Autumn Orion Dennis showed signs of life and lived for almost two hours after being born last October.
She alleges, however, that doctors at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle left the baby to die because she'd been born so prematurely.
The legal limit of viability – whether or not a baby is deemed to be capable of growing – is 24 weeks, the abortion limit.
Sophie said: "When Autumn was born, I pleaded with doctors to help her. They said there was nothing they could because she was 22 weeks – I think they were expecting her to be born stillborn.
"I was in shock so I didn’t protest. They told me how disabled she would be and how she wouldn’t be fit for life if they helped her.
“I said ‘are you going to leave my baby to die?'. Autumn came out gasping for air, and we kept asking them to do something.
“You could feel her pulse and feel her heartbeat. As she was passed to me she was moving and gasping for air.
“She was placed on my chest. I cried as I held her for nearly two hours.
“It was instant love but heartbreak at the same time. I felt like I’d failed her and kept apologising to her. I kept saying sorry to her."
Sophie maintains that doctors were expecting a stillborn and so were unprepared to treat a living baby.
“I felt like I wanted to get up and put her in an incubator myself but I also felt helpless. You can’t put it into words how it feels hold your child and watch her die in your arms."
Autumn was born in October 2017 following Sophie's high-risk pregnancy during which she was diagnosed with subchronic haematoma – blood clots in her tissue.
An NHS report concluded that Sophie and her husband "should have been given the opportunity to talk to a neonatologist regarding the options available" and that "Autumn was born showing some signs of life, which were not anticipated".
NHS advice states that babies born between 22 and 26 weeks “may not survive or may have long-term problems” and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG) say that babies born within this period are “a major medical and ethical challenge”.
It's only after 25 weeks, they advise, that active management should be offered.
Sophie and husband Sam claim that mistakes were made in her maternity notes which also went towards their daughter not being seen as "viable".
Earlier this year, Sophie gave birth to son, Laken. Despite the joy of the occasion, she says that her first baby's death has continued to devastate her and her family.
“I was scared of losing Laken at certain milestones, but thankfully it was a textbook pregnancy
“When he was born I didn't want to hold him straight away, I needed a minute because I was full of emotion.
“Then something clicked and I scooped him up and held him close to me in the same place where I held Autumn.
“I believe she’s always around us and that Autumn looked out for Laken while I was pregnant with him."
The pair has now launched an online petition to get the guidelines on assisting premature babies revised.
It's already gathered over 100,000 signatures.
“I don’t think any mum should have to go through that level of emotional and physical pain and then be told there’s nothing they could do and watch their child die.
“It’s currently a guideline to help a baby born under 24 weeks even if they show signs of life. It’s so wrong.
"If a woman wants to have an abortion she can, but if a woman wants her baby to survive they can't. I knew on that bed, holding my child dying, that I’d do everything I could to stop that happening.
"There was so much more that they could have done.
"I feel hugely let down by the NHS. They let me and my daughter down. I can’t even describe in words how I feel about how they treated us that night.
“The decision to try and keep my daughter alive was taken away from us and that was heartbreaking.”
A spokesman for Newcastle Hospitals NHS Trust said: “We appreciate this has been a very difficult time for Mrs Dennis and her family. We investigated her concerns as part of our complaints process and shared our findings with her.
“When a baby is born pre-term their care and treatment is determined by careful and detailed consideration of a wide range of factors that are individual to that family.
“Patient confidentiality prevents us from commenting publicly on individual cases however, if there are any outstanding concerns we would be more than happy to arrange a meeting to discuss them with her.”
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