The tragic death in childbirth of Princess Charlotte in 1817 and the Progress of Obstretrics

Life Long Learning KZN together with the Department of Anaesthetics of the Medical School of UKZN invite you to hear two presentations on this tragic event:


Dr. Chris Rout will give an account of the history of the event




Dr.Teddy Pillay will talk about the progress in obstetrics since 1817


The event is FREE and should interest both a medical and non-medical audience.


When?  Wednesday evening 19th July 2017 : 6pm – 8pm

Where?The venue is the Seminar Room in the K-Rith building at the UKZN Medical School  on Umbilo Rd - It is the building with the long vertical metal sheets at the side.


Umbilo Road is a one-way going north. If you come down Queen Mary Avenue turn left at the traffic lights into Umbilo Road and then immediately turn right into the main entrance of the Medical School.


There is Free and secure parking.  Visitors must sign in at the gate.

Had this popular princess (heir to the British throne) and her baby son lived, there would have been no Queen Victoria. To the shock of the nation the baby was still-born and the mother died.


Who was to blame?


Reviled in public, the eminent doctor who had overseen the birth, committed suicide. But he had followed the best practice and medical beliefs of the time:


  • Use of forceps was out of favour and considered a last resort;
  • Use of ergot preparations to enhance uterine action was only introduced a few years later;
  • Use of chloroform to ease pain was decades away
  • Use of aseptic practices and improved surgical techniques was in the future 


It has been alleged that use of forceps might have saved mother and baby, but the attending doctor, in consultation with eminent colleagues, decided that their use was not indicated.


A century later, in a drama and subsequently in film, the tragedy has been presented as one of male hubris – the doctor too famous and proud to take advice.


The death of Princess Charlotte resonates with the current tension between medical practice and risks of litigation should things go wrong. While medical professionals should act according to their training and best practices of the day, this is against the ever-present background of possible litigation, influenced by public perceptions of what can or should be done. 


 Currently in South Africa the cost of malpractice insurance for obstetricians is becoming prohibitive, and may even be deterring doctors from specializing in obstetrics.


Please register on

or ring Rochelle on 084 44 66 362 or 031 2055664



Event Date 19/07/17 6:00 pm
Event End Date 19/07/17 8:00 pm
Registration Start Date 11/07/17 6:00 pm
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Location UKZN Medical School
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