UK midwives treat a loss father with contempt

Joshua Titcombe

I am humbled by the profound love that James Titcombe has shown for his son Joshua.

James and his wife Hoa lost their son to midwifery incompetence (Joshua’s easily preventable, tragic hospital birth death). According to an National Health Service investigation quoted by The Independent:

Joshua died in November 2008, nine days after being born at the Furness General Hospital, part of the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust. An inquest in 2011 said that staff at the hospital failed to spot a common infection, and that he would have stood an 80 per cent chance of survival if antibiotics had been delivered in the hours after his delivery.

The pain and frustration that James Titcombe deals with must be immense. The NHS initially refused to investigate, but James continued to advocate for Joshua. When he decided to take a break from his years of pressing for an investigation, he was treated with unspeakable contempt. According to The Independent:

The family were left deeply hurt on two occasions after seeing internal email exchanges between Trust staff. One followed an email from Mr Titcombe in June 2010 saying he would be stepping back from his inquiries after “becoming extremely distressed and anxious” about the investigations progress.

Informing the Trust’s head of midwifery of the email, the Trust’s customer care manager wrote: ‘Good news to pass on re [Mr D]’, and received the reply: ‘Has [Mr D] moved to Thailand? What is the good news?’

In another email from August 2009, later seen by Mr Titcombe, a discussion of a midwife’s statement to the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) concerning the circumstances of Joshua’s death was subject lined: “NMC shit”.

But James did not give up. He fought on for Joshua and ultimately he and Hoa received an apology from NHS for not investigating Joshua’s death back in 2010, and an apology for the inappropriate emails.

James has continue to advocate on behalf of other babies, so no parent will have to endure the preventable death of a baby, a refusal to investigate it, and the contemptuous treatment that followed it.

UK midwife Sheena Byrom and her colleagues are familiar with James’ efforts and apparently consider him ever so tiresome.

Byrom and colleagues were having a public Twitter confab on the use of social media during and after birth (just like nature intended, no doubt). Byrom tweeted that hospital policies appeared to be dictated by risk and “all this talk about risk. Not comfortable with it.”

James entered the Twitter stream to point out that childbirth is indeed quite dangerous. He should know. His son died as a result of an infection acquired during birth.

A chilling response from Byrom and colleagues follows:

Sheena Byrom 1

Highlights include:

oh James-don’t let’s get on that roll again …


getting out of bed in the morning has risks

Yes, James, how could you be so tiresome, always going on about the risks of childbirth and the babies who die as a result? Sheena is so over that.

Sheena ought to be ashamed of herself for the chilling way that she dismissed the father of a baby who died as a result of midwifery incompetence. But that would involve insight, compassion and a sense of responsibility, something in woefully short supply among UK midwives.

How can women trust “professionals” who dismiss a dead baby as a troublesome distraction from the agenda of promoting midwifery?

And how can women trust “professionals” who are aggressively close minded. When I posted a link to my piece debunking the article that Sheena cited, she responded thus:

don’t read your foolish, dangerous blogs, you are blocked.


Sheena Byrom 2

It’s almost as if Sheena and colleagues fear that by reading my blog, they might learn something they did not want to know. And that could be “toxic and dangerous” to them (who cares about babies and women who might be saved?).

Byrom’s contemptuous dismissal of James Titcombe, a father whose son died of midwifery incompetence, who was forced to endure a refusal to investigate his son’s death, and subject to chilling emails that treated his dead son as an inconvenience, is both outrageous and disgusting.

Her refusal to read my blog is indicative of the close mindedness of UK midwives who prize validation above scientific evidence, process above outcomes, and midwifery income above the lives of babies and mothers.

Sheena Byrom, have you no shame?

Oh, wait, you’re a UK midwifery leader, so of course you don’t.

Joshua and Hoa