Alcoholic Belgian doctor faces jail time for death of British woman

Alcoholic Belgian doctor faces jail time for death of British woman
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An alcoholic Belgian doctor is facing the maximum penalty in France for botching a Caesarian section while under the influence, causing the death of a British woman days after the birth of her child.

Prosecutors in the French city of Pau have requested three years imprisonment for Helga Wauters, an anesthesiologist accused of manslaughter for the death of British citizen Xynthia Hawke in 2014.

Hawke died at the age of 28 after being admitted for delivery and rushed into the operating bloc for an emergency C-section in which Wauters intervened.

Experts in the trial, which opened on Thursday, said Wauters pushed an intubation tube down the digestive tract of Hawke instead of down the airways.

While her baby was delivered safely, Hawke died from cardiac arrest four days after the procedure.

Hawke's family has travelled from Britain to attend the trial, during which Wauters is said to have repeatedly sought to shift the blame on faulty equipment and on poor communication on the medical team.

While Wauters admitted to drinking vodka on the morning on the procedure as well as a glass of wine before being called back for Hawke's operation, she denied being drunk during the procedure.

The investigation into the affair showed that Wouters had already been fired from two hospitals in Belgium due to faults linked to her alcoholism, French daily Le Figaro reports.

Hawke's family's lawyer, Philippe Courtois, has said that Wauters spent "years" denying the facts and said he believed she was a "bad doctor," who the family hoped the court would keep from harming anybody else.

"A penal sanction will result," Courtois said. "Whether it will be imprisonment, and for how many years, does not really change anything."

"What the family wishes is for this practitioner to create no more victims, that she is banned from the medical profession permanently."

Prosecutors have requested Wauters be jailed for three years, the highest penalty for manslaughter in France, and for her medical licence to be revoked. A ruling is expected on 12 November.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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