A girl has been awarded £5.5m compensation after a catalogue of errors leading up to and during her birth at St Luke’s Hospital in Bradford in 1994, left her with irreversible brain damage.
The girl, now 18 years old, was starved of oxygen in the days leading up to her birth. Her mother was initially admitted to hospital following a small trauma. She was experiencing some pain and a “show”, so underwent two Cardiotocographs (CTG’s), which were suspicious, but despite this and her mother’s obstetric history, was not referred to senior medical staff. The following morning, she was experiencing a loss of blood and fluid, which was reported to hospital staff and she was discharged by the hospital and allowed home.
The mother was readmitted to hospital a few days later, due to continual loss of fluid over the previous four days. Further CTG’s were recorded and the baby was shown as not being active. After a further delay in her medical review she was delivered by emergency caesarean section, but was found to have suffered asphyxia in the womb and to be severely brain damaged.
A leading medical expert believes that had her daughter been delivered on the day she was initially admitted, given the abnormalities present, then in all probability would she would have been delivered as normal. The mother would have been at high risk of intrauterine growth restriction due to her history of delivering small babies, but this was not sufficiently taken into account and asphyxia could have been avoided. Regardless of this, it was found that the mother’s hospital care was not sufficient considering suspicious CTG’s, and a failure to seek senior advice given these abnormalities led to a delay in delivery.
The female, who would like to remain anonymous, has been awarded a lump sum of £2.2m and will receive periodical annual payments totalling £3.3m to cover her care and other special needs, such as adapting her home, for the rest of her life.
She now suffers from Bilateral Diplegic Cerebral Palsy and her disability means she is entirely dependent on her family and carers. She experiences problems with speaking and hearing, as well as severe learning difficulties. She also suffers from Epilepsy.
Morrish Solicitors made a claim for compensation
The mother, who also has other children, contacted Morrish Solicitors 4 years ago to pursue a claim for medical negligence against the hospital, following failure to progress the case by previous solicitors she had instructed and the hospital fighting against liability.
Morrish Solicitors argued that there were significant delays in the mother’s medical review and adequate care was not provided leading up to her daughter’s birth. St. Luke’s Hospital in Bradford finally admitted liability in March 2011 following protracted negotiations and a settlement was ultimately agreed prior to a trial. The recent hearing approved the agreed settlement for the family and the sum awarded reflects the level of care she will need for the rest of her life.
Her mother said: “This has been a long hard fight to secure justice for my daughter. The last 18 years have taken their toll and been extremely stressful not only on myself, but the whole family, but I hope that we can now get the care and equipment that she needs to provide her with a better life.”
Compensation will enable the family to access the best care possible
Jane McBennett of Morrish Solicitors, who acted on behalf of the family stated: “The mother has had a hard fight to get justice for her daughter. The hospital trust and their solicitors initially denied liability vigorously. Her daughter would have been left with nothing had her mother not decided to fight on. This settlement means that she will be looked after financially for the rest of her life.”
“To avoid any other family having to go through what this family have, we hope that this settlement will mean that hospitals ensure full past obstetric notes are adequately reviewed when a pregnant woman is seen in hospital, and appropriate plans are made for their treatment and delivery of the baby.”
“It is necessary to show not just that the hospital staff made a mistake, but that they did something no competent member of staff would do. In addition, it must be possible to say that this was what caused the patient’s problems. Sadly it was only through lengthy and difficult negotiations that the daughter’s long term needs could be assessed and the cost of them calculated. Poor medical procedures should be fully investigated and hopefully lessons will be learned to improve NHS standards of care prior to and during labour and the delivery of babies.”
Jane added: “At a time when the climate has never been more hostile to victims of negligence seeking redress it is important to remember that these are ordinary people up against powerful institutions and that this is not about getting rich; it is about compensating an individual for injuries that should never have happened.”
The issue of legal aid
The mother, who received legal aid to help fight her medical negligence claim, has expressed her concern about potential cuts to funding.
She said “My daughter is one of the fortunate cases to be supported by legal aid, but without the current legal aid system, we would not have been able to offer my daughter the support and assistance she deserves.”
The Government are looking to save up to £350m a year on legal aid over the next 3 years but they have stated that cases, such as this one, would still be covered within the new system.
However, the girl’s mother is worried about the impact medical negligence will have on those families without the assistance of legal aid.
She stated: “Without legal aid, families are going to be left to fend for themselves. Families are going to struggle.”
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