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25 Feb, 2009 06:59

Mothers blame doctors for death of newborns

Three women in the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk claim their maternity hospitals let them down after they lost their new-born babies. They have little hope their tragedy will be acknowledged.

At first glance Zinaida Gulyan, Yekaterina Kopytova and Anna Karpacheva look like three successful friends meeting to chat over cups of tea, but the real bond that links them is a tragedy that happened to all of them.

Their conversation always drifts to their newborn children which they saw die. All three say that when they were pregnant tests showed their unborn babies had no abnormalities. Their maternity hospitals claim the women themselves were at fault.

Zinaida claims doctors pumped too much oxygen into her baby's lungs after he was born – the child did not survive.

Yekaterina says she was meant to give birth by caesarian section, but doctors did not follow instructions. Her son died 17 days later.

Anna's case is the only one where a criminal investigation is underway. Her daughter Alisa was born brain-dead. Anna claims doctors pushed so hard on her stomach that the child sustained massive head injuries.

It was the hospital's attitude afterwards that makes her determined to get justice.

“They told me, ‘Anna, what did you expect? You didn't make the effort. You didn't help the baby. It's completely your fault’,” Anna Karpacheva explained.

She claims Krasnoyarsk Railway Hospital tried to pressure her into taking no further action. Its chief doctor Vitaliy Tskhai, though, says the mothers were suffering from trauma, and needed psychological, not legal, help.

“Even completely healthy mothers can sometimes experience difficulties during delivery. Which are sometimes difficult to predict. So I can understand the mothers’ shock at what happened, but this is a good hospital, with better statistics than the country as a whole,” Dr Tskhai told RT.

The regional prosecutor’s office say the outcome of Anna's case hinges on medical evaluation.

“It's usually very difficult to prove guilt in these cases. The investigator relies on the doctor’s expert opinion. But it is unusual for the doctors' reports to directly blame other doctors for medical errors,” said Olga Shamanskaya from the Krasnoyarsk Prosecutor's Office.

If Anna's case does go to court and the obstetricians are found guilty they could face up to three years in jail.

It may take long for the court to decide who is at fault for the death of Anna's child, but this case isn't just about placing the blame. The case is addressing the issue of infant mortality – a fundamental indicator of a country's development, particularly for a country that's concerned about its falling population.