Probe into Brisbane newborn deaths

Sarah Motherwell

A newborn's skull was fractured after a midwife attempted to help free the baby during a caesarean birth at a Brisbane hospital, a court has heard.

Nixon Tonkin never breathed on his own and died shortly after being delivered at Royal Brisbane and Women's Hospital in June 2014 at 38 weeks' gestation.

A coronial inquest next year will investigate what could have been done to prevent Nixon's death, as well as that of baby Archer Langley, who died at the same hospital in July 2014 from a rare condition that prevented him clearing amniotic fluid from his lungs.

Brisbane Coroner's Court heard on Friday the decision to deliver Nixon via caesarean section was made after his mother Simone was diagnosed with obstructed labour, partly caused by the baby's large size.

During the procedure a midwife pushed two fingers on Nixon's head through the vagina in an attempt to remove his head from the pelvis.

Thirty minutes after he was delivered, Nixon died from significant head injuries including skull fractures, haemorrhages and brain swelling, likely caused by the excessively focused pressure of the midwife's fingers.

An independent expert report into Nixon's death found the midwife's action was an understandable response to an emergency situation, not from any careless or negligent attitude.

Applying such upward pressure to a baby's head didn't usually cause such catastrophic injuries but cases had been reported, the court heard.

While Nixon and Archer's deaths are not linked, their inquests will both be held in March to allow the coroner to give more holistic recommendations that could prevent future obstetric-related deaths.