A medic has been jailed for three years after killing a mother during an emergency C-section by shoving a breathing tube down her esophagus.
The tragic incident took place in France where 51-year-old Helga Wauters was charged with manslaughter after killing 28-year-old British expat Xynthia Hawke.
On September 26, 2014, Hawke was taken to hospital to give birth. Due to unexpected complications later that day, the medics were forced to perform an emergency C-section.
When Wauters was called to the maternity ward to administer a general anesthetic, witnesses could allegedly smell alcohol on her breath.
According to the reports, the doctor, who had been working at the hospital for just two weeks at the time, allegedly inserted a breathing tube into Hawke’s food pipe, esophagus, instead of her windpipe, trachea. She also used an oxygen mask instead of a ventilator.
During the emergency procedure, the patient allegedly woke up in pain and started vomiting and screaming after running out of oxygen.
As the investigation revealed, the 51-year-old medic failed to react in time to save Hawke. According to an investigation, Wauters proceeded by using a ventilator that “wasn’t connected to anything.”
“And then there was a surreal scene – not understanding why it did not work, Mrs Wauters tested the respirator on herself!” Prosecutor Orlane Yaouang told the court.
While Wauters initially insisted that the ventilator was not working during the procedure, investigators found out that the ventilator was entirely operative.
Following the unprofessional surgery, Hawke slipped into a coma before dying from oxygen deprivation four days later.
At the time of the 51-year-old doctor’s arrest, Wauters’ blood alcohol content was found to be at 2.38 grams per liter which is more than four times the legal limit when driving in the country.
According to the reports, Wauters, a Belgium-native, has long been a heavy drinker whereas she came to France in search of work after getting fired from a hospital for being drunk at work.
Previously, she told the court she believes she doesn’t deserve a prison sentence even though she admitted struggling with her addiction to alcohol.
“These last six years have been hell. I carry the death of Xynthia Hawke with me every minute. I accept my responsibility, but I don’t deserve to go to prison,” she said in October.
In her statement, the 51-year-old disgraced medic added:
“My job as a doctor makes me responsible for the lives of my patients. I became a doctor to save lives. I could never imagine one day I could have done bad to anyone.
“I don’t want to make myself the victim, but I was overwhelmed by this addiction that I still cannot control despite all my efforts. I recognize now that my addiction was incompatible with my job.”
While Yaouang acknowledged that the defendant couldn’t be blamed for being an alcoholic, she insisted Wauters was responsible for putting her patients at risk by working under the influence of alcohol.
“She dragged Xynthia down with her,” the prosecutor said as she called for the maximum sentence of three years in prison. “She says she’s been through hell, all these years. But which side is hell really on?”
On Thursday, Wauters was sentenced to three years in prison besides being banned from practicing medicine.