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Disabled Teenager Strikes Blow for Patients’ Rights

Published: 11 March 2015, in categories: Personal Injury Updates | Legal Updates | News and Updates

A teenager who was born seriously disabled has won the right to full compensation following a landmark Supreme Court ruling, which underlined the right of patients to choose for themselves whether or not to undergo potentially hazardous procedures.

The boy’s mother was diabetic and was known to be at risk of having an unusually large baby. Her child’s shoulders became stuck in the birth canal during his delivery and he suffered serious disabilities as a result of the obstetric emergency. The boy’s lawyers sued the hospital authority, alleging a negligent failure to warn his mother in advance that her child was at risk.

The doctor overseeing the woman’s pregnancy had given no such warning on the basis that, if he did, she would probably opt for a Caesarean delivery, which, in his view, would not be in her interest. The boy’s claim was dismissed after judges found that delivery problems in respect of over-sized babies were usually overcome fairly easily and that the chances of grave disability were small.

In allowing the boy’s appeal, the Court noted that, in diabetic mothers, there was a 9-10 per cent risk of such complications arising. It could not be assumed that modern patients were ignorant of medical matters and it was right that they should be made aware of risks inherent in treatment. The mother should have been told the pros and cons of a Caesarean delivery so that she could make her own choice in accordance with her own values. She had not been given sufficient information to play any part in the decision. The amount of compensation payable to the boy remained to be assessed.

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