Giving birth is always a tense time for parents but they have a right to expect that, if a crisis develops, medical professionals will match up to their duty of care. In one case where that did not happen, a gravely disabled eight-year-old boy has won the right to a multi-million-pound compensation settlement from the NHS.
The boy was the first of premature twins to be delivered. Tragically, his brother only survived for two weeks. The boy suffered a catastrophic spinal injury and severe bruising to his chest and face during the course of the delivery. He has been left paralysed in all four limbs and is dependent on a tracheotomy and a ventilator.
Lawyers representing the boy and his parents launched proceedings against the NHS trust that ran the hospital where he was born. In upholding the claim, the High Court found that the pattern of bruising on the newborn proved that the forceps had been placed in the wrong position and that excessive force had been used. The doctor concerned had fallen far below the standard of care expected of him.
The Court was very critical of the NHS’s decision to resist the boy’s claim on the basis that it was a straightforward and unremarkable forceps delivery. It was clear that the doctor’s evidence was difficult to reconcile with notes and records of the birth. There was also an obvious gap in the trust’s evidence in that no midwife or nurse who was present at the birth, nor any of the medics who treated the boy in the intensive care unit, had been called as witnesses. The amount of the boy’s compensation remains to be assessed, but it is likely to be a seven-figure sum.