Genetics claim for wrongful birth at Queen ELizabeth II Hospital | Fieldfisher
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Case Study

Genetics claim for wrongful birth at Queen ELizabeth II Hospital

We settled a genetics claim regarding fetal medicine for Mick and Lucy who's son was born with genetic disabilities. The claim was settled against Queen Elizabeth II Hospital for £38,000.

John was born on 15 September 1995 at the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital, Welwyn Garden City. He was born with a number of disabilities which cause significant developmental delay and heart abnormalities.

Before his birth, John's mother, Lucy, had had four other pregnancies. Two of those had ended in miscarriage, a third had resulted in a normal delivery and the fourth was terminated.

The case centred on the fourth pregnancy which had been electively terminated in July 1994 because the fetus had chromosomal defects.

After the termination a fetal blood sample was obtained for karyotyping (testing to examine chromosomes in a sample number of cells) to ascertain the nature of the chromosomal defect. The results of this excluded changes in chromosome number and expected large structural rearrangements but not small rearrangements deletions or micro deletions. 

Lucy was advised that these results indicated there was only a small risk, 3-5% that there would be chromosomal abnormalities in a future pregnancy.

It was alleged that with the correct genetic screening John’s condition would have been found in utero and the pregnancy would have been terminated. 

Lucy's pregnancy was uncomplicated until 14 September when a routine antenatal appointment found irregularities in the fetal heart beat. Lucy was admitted to hospital and induced the next day.

John was diagnosed as having an unbalanced translocation of chromosomes 12 and 18 which caused his development and cardiac problems.

The fetal blood samples taken from the earlier pregnancy were retested and found to have the same unbalanced translocation and Lucy and her husband Mick were referred for genetic counselling.

Lucy and Mick contacted Paul McNeil and instructed him to pursue a wrongful birth claim against the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital. Paul issued proceedings and alleged that if the serious abnormalities that John suffers from had been diagnosed early on in the pregnancy, Lucy and Mick would have opted for a termination.

The original fetal blood samples should have been investigated further in view of Lucy's previous miscarriages. This would have established that there was insufficient evidence to exclude that the chromosomes had mutated and would have led to a request for parental blood samples for karyotyping.

These tests would have revealed Lucy's chromosomal abnormality and led to genetic screening in John's pregnancy.

We sought damages for the pain and suffering caused to Mick and Lucy as a result of the pregnancy and the shock of discovering John's disabilities.

The claim settled shortly before trial and Mick and Lucy accepted £38,000 compensation. The claim was conducted on a no win, no fee basis.