Damages for ‘wrongful birth’?

Posted: 20th February 2017

PregnancyIn a highly unusual ‘wrongful birth’ case, a couple whose daughter was delivered gravely disabled following negligent failure to pick up warning signs during ante-natal scans could result in the Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust paying million in damages.

The couple are devoted to their eight-year-old daughter but the mother argued that, had she learnt the truth about her condition in time, she would have opted to terminate the pregnancy. In the event, the girl, Matilda, was born microcephalic, the rare neurological disorder prevents brain development and cause intellectual disability, poor motor function, speech and vision and she would require constant care throughout her life.

The woman underwent a total of ten ultrasound scans during her pregnancy but her baby’s condition remained undetected. The High Court found that the results of two of those scans – during the 31st and 36th weeks of gestation – had been negligently analysed. No reasonable clinician presented with those results would have failed to appreciate the risk that the foetus was suffering from microcephaly and the care given to the expectant mother thus reflected inappropriately low clinical standards.

The Court’s ruling greatly improved the mother’s prospects of winning sufficient compensation to pay for her daughter’s lifelong care. However, it remained necessary for her to establish that she would in fact have elected for a termination had she been alerted to her daughter’s condition during her pregnancy.