Laura brought a claim for the wrongful birth of her daughter, who was born with Down's Syndrome following the hospital's failure to identify a significant and obvious fetal heart defect during the antenatal period.
Laura had her first trimester screening at the hospital and attended regular antenatal appointments thereafter.
At 16 weeks gestation, Laura had the blood tests to calculate the risk of her child having Down's syndrome. The risk was calculated at 1:260 and classed low risk.
At 20 weeks gestation, Laura underwent a routine ultrasound anomaly scan, performed by a sonographer at the hospital. The sonographer told Laura that she had measured a short femur length, but it was still within the normal range. The sonographer also confirmed that she had visualised all four chambers of the baby's heart and no obvious signs of fetal anomaly were observed.
Laura subsequently met with her consultant obstetrician and raised her concerns about the short femur length and its link to Down’s syndrome. The consultant reassured Laura that since the 20 week scan did not identify an anomaly, there was no need to be concerned.
Laura continued with her pregnancy and gave birth to her daughter by elective caesarean section at full term. The following day, paediatricians noted that her daughter had several features consistent with Trisomy 21 (Down’s syndrome) and this was confirmed by chromosomal analysis.
An echo scan of the baby's heart revealed a large complete Atrioventricular Septal Defect (AVSD), a classic sign of Down's syndrome. Laura's daughter was later diagnosed with Hirschprung's Disease, which is also linked to Down's Syndrome.
As well as materially lower cognitive function, her child suffers substantial feeding difficulties and requires almost 24/7 care.
Laura instructed Fieldfisher to investigate her clinical negligence claim. Evidence was obtained from an independent sonographer who advised that the baby's heart defect was clearly there to be seen on the 20 week scan she should have been referred to a fetal medicine specialist. Evidence from an independent fetal medicine specialist confirmed that Laura would have been offered amniocentesis which would have confirmed a diagnosis of Down's syndrome. She would have been offered and accepted termination of the pregnancy.
A pre-action Letter of Claim was sent to the defendant Trust outlining the above allegations of negligence. An early admission of both breach of duty and causation were made by the Trust. Significant interim damages payments were secured to meet the cost of care, case management and suitable accommodation.
Iona instructed a number of experts to comment on Laura's daughter's condition and prognosis, as well as her care, educational, therapy and accommodation needs.
A substantial settlement was then reached to compensate Laura for the additional costs of raising a child with complex medical and learning needs.
'Among the representatives of the law firms I interviewed, Iona from Fieldfisher seemed the most experienced in handling such cases. This came across clearly throughout the process and in the amount of damages achieved. I would be more than happy to recommend Iona and her team for handling similar cases.'
The team at Fieldfisher instructed Lizanne Gumbel QC of One Crown Office Row Chambers.
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