Heartbroken parents who lost their baby at an exclusive private hospital when he sustained catastrophic and ‘preventable’ brain injuries have received a payout.
Diane and Andreas Kolbe, from West London, paid £15,000 for Diane to give birth at The Portland Hospital, where Meghan Markle had given birth to son Archie just months before.
Victoria Beckham, Jools Oliver and Liz Hurley have also had babies there.
Andreas, 43, a banking investment research analyst, and French teacher, Diane, 37, had opted for an induced birth following complications during the delivery of their first child Louis at the Portland in 2016.
Baby Raphael sustained catastrophic brain injuries after medics failed to notice there was no trace of a heartbeat
‘It was thought safer to have a planned induction because Louis had been large and difficult to deliver. We weren’t expecting any problems with an induced birth,’ said Diane.
The couple said they were ‘relaxed’ in the lead-up to second son Raphael’s birth on August 9 2019.
But, at 3 o’clock that afternoon, a heart monitor, meant to be strapped to his mother’s abdomen, was removed for 30 minutes by a midwife of 20 years’ experience.
When it was re-attached there was no trace of baby Raphael’s heartbeat.
During that time his body had prolapsed against his umbilical cord, cutting off the crucial oxygen supply to his brain.
Mr Kolbe said: ‘Later we recalled what the midwife had said about being able to deliver babies with her eyes closed. It was an odd statement to make and it clearly wasn’t the case.
Diane and Andreas Kolbe opted for an induced birth following complications during the delivery of their first child Louis at The Portland in 2016
‘Raphael should have been monitored continuously. And if it couldn’t be done with a strap in place, then a portable device should have been used.’
The cardiotocography (CTG) strap was removed at about the time an anaesthetist came to reposition Mrs Kolbe’s epidural pain relief line.
Minutes later the baby was delivered lifeless before being resuscitated and rushed to the hospital’s neo-natal intensive care unit, where staff cooled Raphael to reduce brain injury caused by the oxygen starvation.
He was then rushed to the neo-natal unit at NHS Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, where scans confirmed severe brain damage.
The couple were informed that Raphael, born at full term weighing three and half kilos, would die soon after life support was removed.
The private Portland Hospital in the West End of London is favoured by celebrities and royals
The Portland’s childbirth packages start from £15,000 and can cost up to £20,000
He was moved to a hospital closer to his parents’ home where he passed away six weeks later on 22 September.
‘We have been told that if Raphael had been monitored continuously the cardiotocography heart monitoring strap would have picked up him going into distress,’ his mother said. ‘He would then have been delivered immediately.’
Mrs Kolbe is still suffering from post traumatic stress disorder three years after the death of Raphael and has not returned to work.
She is now seven months pregnant and due to give birth at an NHS hospital.
She said: ‘Because of what I have been through – both of us – it was difficult to try for a baby again. We will never forget Raphael.’
The Portland – famous for celeb and royal births – has been hit by fatal mistakes previously. These led to the deaths of two mothers with one grieving husband being awarded £750,000 compensation.
And in 2014, Premier League star Jake Livermore lost his baby son due to a heart monitoring error.
After three years of legal wrangling, Mr and Mrs Kolbe reached a settlement with HCA Healthcare, which runs the hospital, in February 2022, before court proceedings were issued.
Their lawyers at London firm Leigh Day had been working with HCA lawyers since April 2020.
An investigation into baby Raphael’s death went on for over a year, from 5 November 2019 to 5 January 2021.
The inquest concluded on 8 February 2021 and found that his medical cause of death was respiratory failure and severe neonatal hypoxic ischaemic encephalopathy.
The exclusive London hospital said it has ‘implemented learning’ since the events in 2019
West London coroner Lydia Brown said in her conclusion: ‘During the induced labour his condition was not monitored appropriately from 1500 hours and not at all during the re-siting of the epidural.
‘A cord prolapse occurred causing compression of the cord and spasm and leading to a hypoxic brain injury which was unsurvivable.
‘Earlier recognition of this obstetric emergency would have allowed for immediate delivery and probably a different outcome.’
The coroner added that ‘during the course of the inquest the evidence revealed matters giving rise to concern’ and said ‘in my opinion there is a risk that future deaths could occur unless action is taken.’
The couple’s lawyer, Angharad Vaughan, of Leigh Day said: ‘Raphael’s death was a completely preventable tragedy which happened at London’s leading private maternity hospital.
‘While the hospital admitted liability for causing Raphael’s death at a relatively early stage, the obstructive approach it took meant that it took a further 20 months to achieve a reasonable settlement of the legal claim, which only added to Andreas and Diane’s distress.
A spokesman for The Portland said: ‘The Hospital carried out a thorough investigation of events at the time and has since implemented the learning.
‘Patient safety is our most important priority, and we are absolutely committed to maintaining the highest standards of robust audit and training, ensuring a culture of learning from incidents, whenever they occur.’