Prosecutors today told a French court how a British mother screamed ‘it hurts’ in her last moments as a ‘secret alcoholic’ Belgian medic fatally botched her caesarean section by shoving a tube down her oesophagus.
Orlane Yaouang told Pau Criminal Court, in South West France, that Helga Wauters, 51, ‘was responsible for the death of Xynthia Hawke’ and should be sent to prison and banned from practising as a medic ever again.
Ms Hawke, 28, went into cardiac arrest after Wauters forced a breathing tube into her oesophagus instead of her windpipe when she was giving birth to her son, Isaac, six years ago.
The child survived, but Ms Hawke, originally from Somerset, died four days after the horrifying procedure at the Orthez maternity hospital, near Pau, in September 2014.
Ms Yaouang described how Ms Hawke had at first remained conscious through the early stages of the C-section, and at one point screamed: ‘It hurts! It hurts!’
Expat Xynthia Hawke, 28, from Somerset, (pictured, left, in an undated social media photo); and Helga Wauters, 53, (right, at the court in Pau on Thursday)
The late Xynthia Hawke’s partner and father of their child, Yannick Balthazar, sits in the courtroom in Pau yesterday
Expat Xynthia Hawke, 28, from Somerset, died shortly after giving birth to son Isaac in September 2014. Her partner Yannick Balthazar (pictured with Hawke) is bringing him up
When oxygen began to run out, Wauters used a ventilator ‘that was not connected anything,’ said Ms Ms Yaouang.
‘And then there was a surreal scene – not understanding why it did not work, Mrs Wauters tested the respirator on herself!’ said Ms Yaouang.
Ms Yaouang said Wauters, who is a Belgian national, had not made her country’s medical authorities aware of her alcoholism – as she was professionally obliged to do – so it was a secret.
‘You can’t choose to be an alcoholic, and I can’t blame her for this, but I blame her for putting her patients in danger,’ said Ms Yaouang. ‘She dragged Xynthia down with her.’
Noting that Wauters was still a heavy drinker, Ms Yaouang said: ‘She says she’s been through hell, all these years. But which side [Wauters or the deceased] is hell really on?’
Xynthia Hawke’s sister Iris, 36, (right), mother Clare and father Fraser arrive at the courthouse in Pau on Thursday
The late Xynthia Hawke’s partner Yannick Balthazar, sister Iris, mother Clare and father Fraser sitting the courtroom in Pau before the trial on Thursday
Addressing the court on Friday – the last day of Wauters trial for manslaughter – Prosecutor Ms Yaouang said the defendant should get three years in prison, be fined the equivalent of £70,000, and be struck off the medical register.
These are the maximum penalties allowed under French law for this type of lethal medical negligence.
Antoine Vey, for Wauters, described his client as a ‘very shy, sensitive, fragile person’ who was ‘very sick’, while Wauters herself told the court: ‘I would like to be of service to society one day.’
Holiday photos show Hawke beaming on her travels through Europe
Wauters said the rest of the operating team had also made mistakes, and that the respirator they had been using was faulty.
After being arrested and taken into custody by police on the day of Ms Hawke’s operation, the alcohol content in Wauters’s blood was found to be 2.38 grams per litre.
This corresponds to almost 10 glasses of wine, and is more than four times the permitted level when driving in France.
Hawke’s partner, Frenchman Yannick Balthazar, is now raising Isaac. Mr Balthazar was in court, along with Ms Hawke’s parents, Fraser and Clare Hawke, and their other daughter, Iris Hawke.
Judges in the two-day trial, which has now ended, reserved judgement, and will deliver their verdict on November 12.