Sorry we didn't try to save your baby

  • Tracy Godwin, 34, cradled her newborn son Tom in her arms until he died
  • No workers at Southend Hospital tried to resuscitate him or comfort her
  • Tom was delivered 22 weeks and two days into pregnancy in March 2010
  • But hospital had a policy of not resuscitating babies born under 23 weeks
  • Staff didn't explain this to her - and she only learned of it six weeks later


A mother has finally received an apology from health chiefs – four years after her premature baby was left to die in her arms by a hospital.

Tracy Godwin was left cradling her tiny son, Tom, for 46  minutes until he stopped breathing as staff ignored her desperate pleas for help.

He had been born at 22 weeks, but Miss Godwin was not told that the hospital did not resuscitate babies born before 23 weeks. If she had known, she could have gone to another hospital, which might have tried to help her child.

A coroner has now ruled that Southend Hospital in Essex made a series of errors in its care of mother and son.

  •  Poor communication meant Miss Godwin was not told about the hospital’s policy on resuscitation.
  • A paediatrician should have explained about the 23-week rule before the birth and should have been present after delivery.
  • An obstetric review should have been carried out when Miss Godwin was admitted. A consultant did not see her until the next day.
  • She received inadequate counselling following the death of her son.

Miss Godwin, whose relationship with Tom’s father collapsed after the tragedy, said she was ‘ecstatic’ with the result but added: ‘It doesn’t bring Tom back.’

‘It has been an incredibly difficult four years since the death of my baby boy in horrendous circumstances,’ she said.

‘I have finally received an apology and the coroner has found that the trust failed in its care of me and my baby. This ordeal has brought about significant change at the hospital, and the fact that no other mother will go through what I went through is a positive I will cherish.

‘I want mothers-to-be up and down the country to be aware of my case and the fact that each trust has its own guidelines.’

Miss Godwin, 34, of Oldmead, near Southend, was having a  normal pregnancy until March 4, 2010, when she developed excruciating stomach pains.

She was put in a private room at Southend Hospital and when staff told her the baby might arrive early she begged them to do everything they could to keep it alive. After three days a midwife broke her waters with what Miss Godwin believes was a large pair of scissors and she gave birth to her 1lb son shortly afterwards.

Describing the traumatic experience, she said: ‘They put him in my arms and he cried and was  wriggling around. I could feel him breathing and see his eyelashes and toes.

‘But I kept thinking, “Where’s the incubator?” We were begging the midwives to do something to help him but no one was saying anything. He was not stillborn, he was trying to live.

‘If they had tried for an hour and said they couldn’t do anything more for him or he was severely brain-damaged that would have been different, but he wasn’t given a chance.’

The inquest at Chelmsford  Coroner’s Court heard that Miss Godwin was not told of the resuscitation policy until six weeks later during a meeting with senior staff.

Coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray last week recorded a verdict of death from natural causes and said failings in the care provided ‘did not affect the outcome’. Babies born at 22 weeks have about a  1 per cent chance of survival.

Following her ordeal, Miss Godwin has given birth to a daughter, Isla, at a different hospital. She also arrived prematurely, at 24 weeks, but is now a healthy little girl.


Southend Hospital said it could not help babies born under 23 weeks because their quality of life would be impaired if they were resuscitated. 

One in every nine babies in Britain is born either sick or premature - before 37 weeks of gestation, according to the charity Bliss.

Only 9 per cent born in the 23rd week of pregnancy survive, and just 14 per cent of 23-week babies live after being resuscitated.

It is routine practice in Britain to resuscitate babies born between 23 and 25 weeks, but individual NHS Trusts can decide their own policies on babies born at 22 to 23 weeks.

In other countries such as Holland, there is a policy not to intervene with babies born at 23 weeks and let them die a dignified death.

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