International

Belgian anaesthetist jailed for causing Brit’s death while drunk

Helga Wauters said she would "regret this death [her] entire life"

A Belgian anaesthetist has been jailed for three years after a British woman died following a botched emergency Caesarean.

Helga Wauters, 51, was also banned from practising following a court hearing in France on Thursday.

She was found guilty of manslaughter over the death of 28-year-old Xynthia Hawke in 2014.

Wauters pushed a breathing tube into Ms Hawke’s oesophagus instead of her windpipe, investigators said.

She was under the influence of alcohol during the procedure.

Wauters did not appear in court on Thursday, but relatives of Ms Hawke travelled from the UK to attend the proceedings in the French city of Pau.

Ms Hawke was admitted to Orthez hospital near Pau in September 2014. She was given an epidural by Wauters, but problems occurred during the birth which meant an emergency Caesarean was needed.

Wauters, a chronic alcoholic, admitted being an alcoholic who started “every day” drinking vodka and water. She also said she had a glass of wine before she was called back to the hospital for the Caesarean.

Witnesses reported smelling alcohol on her when she returned. When she was taken into custody, the alcohol content in her blood was 2.38 grams per litre, or the equivalent of around 10 glasses of wine.

Xynthia Hawke’s family attended the court proceedings on Thursday

The 51-year-old was less than two weeks into the job when she inserted the breathing tube incorrectly. She also allegedly used an oxygen mask instead of a ventilator.

Ms Hawke woke up during the operation and began vomiting and shouting “it hurts”, witnesses said. One nurse told the court the scene was like a war zone.

She suffered a cardiac arrest and died four days after the procedure, but her baby boy survived.

But Wauters denied being solely responsible for the death and insisted other staff were to blame. She claimed the ventilator was not working at the time – but investigators found this to be untrue.