Doc who ‘killed Brit mum during cesarean after forcing tube into oesophagus was over drink-drive limit before surgery’

Doc who ‘killed Brit mum during cesarean after forcing tube into oesophagus was over drink-drive limit before surgery’

  • Updated: 8 Oct 2020, 15:29

A BELGIAN doctor who killed a British mum in an operation after forcing a tube into her oesophagus was over the drink-drive limit before the fatal surgery, a court heard.

Helga Wauters, 53, is on trial in France for the manslaughter of 28-year-old expat Xynthia Hawke who died four days after giving birth.

7Helga Wauters is on trial for the manslaughter of Brit Xynthia HawkeCredit: AFP or licensors
7The 28-year-old Xynthia died when Ms Wauters put an air pipe down her oesophagus
7Xynthia died four days after her emergency caesarean

Ms Wauters admitted today being four times over the drink-drive alcohol limit when she botched the caesarean that caused the death of Ms Hawke.

During the 2014 operation, Ms Wauters pushed a tube down Ms Hawke’s oesophagus instead of her windpipe.

The doctor failed to realise the error she had made despite the mother vomiting and crying in agony.

Ms Hawke, from Somerset, died shortly after giving birth to her baby son Isaac at the Orthez maternity hospital in France.

During Ms Hawke’s caesarean, Ms Wauters administered the first dose of anaesthetic and then left before birth complications appeared which required an emergency C-section. 

When Wauters returned to theatre, colleagues said her breath smelled heavily of alcohol, because she had been drinking vodka and "a glass of rosé wine" with friends during her break.


She also claimed to have been "70 percent in control of my faculties," and "not drunk," the court heard.

Ms Wauters said the rest of the operating team had also made mistakes, and that the respirator they had been using had been faulty.

After being arrested and taken into custody by police on the day of Ms Hawke’s operation, the alcohol content in Ms 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. 

I carry the death of Xynthia Hawke with me every minute.

Helga Wauters

Ms Wauters told a court in Pau, South West France, that she should be spared jail.

“These last six years have been hell,” said Ms Wauters. 

“I carry the death of Xynthia Hawke with me every minute. I accept my responsibility, but I don’t deserve to go to prison.”

In a statement, Wauters 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.”

7Late Xynthia Hawke's sister Iris (R), mother Clare and father Fraser arrive at the courthouse in PauCredit: AFP or licensors
7Ms Hawke's partner and father of Isaac Yannick Balthazar sits in the courtroom earlier todayCredit: AFP or licensors

The 53-year-old had admitted carrying a bottle of vodka mixed with water in her pocket at all times.

The court also heard how Ms Wauters was sacked by a Belgian hospital in 2013 over an error made during a caesarean because of drinking.

In July 2015, 10 months after Ms Hawke's death, Wauters was also arrested for drink-driving. 

“I recognise now that my addiction was incompatible with my job,” Ms Wauters told the court, adding that “I will regret this death my entire life.”

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Ms Hawke's partner, Mr Balthazar, her sister Iris, 36, and her parents Fraser and Clare arrived at the court in Pau on Thursday to watch Wauters stand trial. 

Ms Wauters faces a maximum of three years imprisonment if convicted of manslaughter and a fine equivalent to almost £70,000.

A verdict in the two-day case will be handed down on Friday.

7Xynthia pregnant with Isaac in 2014
7A verdict will be handed down this Friday concluding the trial of Xynthia's death


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