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Case Study

Settlement for siblings with treatable genetic disorder undiagnosed by Poole hospital

Paul McNeil settled a claim on behalf of a brother and sister with a rare genetic condition even though the hospital Trust refused to admit negligence for failing to diagnose the inherited disorder during their childhoods.

The man, now in his 40s and a protected party, was under the care of the Child Development Clinic at the Poole Hospital during the 1980s because his parents were concerned about his behaviour and abilities. We alleged that there had been regression in his development in his early years that had not been recognised . 
His mother only later discovered that paediatricians in charge of her son had wrongly believed his problems were caused or contributed to by her own failings or those of his childminder.

More than 20 years' later, the man's sister was eventually tested for the metabolic disorder Methylmalonic Acidemia, type CblA after pushing for a diagnosis having suffered extreme fatigue, severe headaches, back pain and tingling in her hands and feet which she believed were neurological for almost seven years. She had previously been told her symptoms were psychosomatic, that she had depression and that she suffered from ME.

Once the sister was diagnosed with CblA, the family demanded that her brother, now also an adult, be tested. He was also confirmed to have disorder. The condition is succesfully treatable with a lifetime regime of vitamin B12 injections and amino acid provided the regime is instituted before the CblA had not caused underlying damage.

Because it was not diagnosed until the man was in his 30s, he suffered learning difficulties that prevent him from living independently. The delay in treatment mean that these cannot be reversed. His legal team successfully argued that if his diagnosis had been made earlier, his developmental delay would have been arrested and he would have been able to live a normal life.

They also argued that had he been diagnosed in infancy, doctors had a duty of care to inform his mother that any other children she had may be affected. Each sibling had a 25% chance of being affected, a 50% chance of being an asymptomatic carrier of CblA and only a 25% chance of being unaffected.

The argument depended on the case of ABC v St George's, also run by Fieldfisher, which in 2020 established a new duty of care owed by clinicians to identifiable third parties (such as family members) in respect of information that reveals a serious risk to those third parties.

The man was awarded £2.5m in damages and his sister received £250,000 for loss of earnings associated with her illness. The awards were approved by the court in December.

The case was brought against the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care since the South West Strategic Health Authority which covered Poole hospital in the 1980s was disbanded in 2013.

The family is now advocating for metabolic disorders, of which there are hundreds, to be included in routine testing of newborns.

The siblings' mother said she was 'extremely grateful' to Paul for taking on her children's case.

"The award will allow my son to receive targeted treatments that will hugely improve his quality of life and his independence and will help him do things that other people take for granted, such as going on holiday."

The sister's health has improved and her condition is manageable, she said.

Contact us

For further information about misdiagnosis claims, please call Paul McNeil on 0330 460 6804 or email paul.mcneil@fieldfisher.com.

Alternatively

All enquiries are completely free of charge and we will investigate all funding options for you including no win no fee. Find out more about no win no fee claims.

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