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University College Hospital

In a hearing in the High Court, His Honour Judge Graham Robinson approved a settlement of just over £30m for a seven-year-old boy who suffered brain injury at birth following a negligent delay in delivering him at UCH (University College Hospital) London in June 2012.

The boy, who is under an anonymity order, has spent most of his life being branded as naughty and disruptive and displaying 'grossly abnormal behaviour', including shouting, biting, defiance and impulsivity.

While initially he was diagnosed with left side Hemiparesis and cerebral palsy was queried, this largely resolved and, physically, he presented like any other young boy. Although he started school, he was excluded almost daily and the Local Education Authority struggled to place him in a school.

He currently lives with his parents and three older sisters in North London and attends a nurturing unit in a specialist school with his own support workers.  He is cared for at home by his parents and his father also looks after the boy's mother, who is in a wheelchair.

The boy was born in a very poor condition by emergency caesarean after hospital staff noticed that the CTG monitor showed he was in distress. He suffered a Moderate Neonatal Encephalopathy, signs of respiratory distress, neo-natal hypoglycaemia, sepsis, seizures and persistent pulmonary hypertension.  He required resuscitation with inflation breaths and intubation and was cooled for 72 hours. When his mother saw his condition, she suffered severe distress and shock.

Jane Weakley was instructed to investigate the delivery and put together a case that resulted in the hospital trust admitting liability for its part in his birth injury.

Jane said that what followed the birth was five years of misdiagnosis by social services and health professionals of bad parenting and disruptive behaviour that medical evidence has since shown was in considerable part a result of his birth injury.

"We instructed independent medical experts, including a paediatric neuropsychiatrist and a diagnosis of autistic spectrum disorder was made, which he wouldn’t have had but for the brain injury, plus ADHD which he probably would have had anyway but which the brain injury made more severe," Ms Weakley said.

"Our case was that it is impossible to divide up his injury – that is, to attribute certain behaviours to the injury and others to factors such as his environment," she said.

"Without this vital diagnosis, this child would have continued to be considered as badly behaved with blame focusing partly on genetics, partly on his living environment. Whereas in fact, mistakes and delays during his birth meant he was deprived of oxygen which left him brain injured.

"Once a case manager was involved, the boy received specialist tuition and was eventually placed in a suitable school.

"I'm extremely pleased that this settlement for life will allow his family to provide the best possible care to give this child the best life possible. What he thrives on is being outdoors, with space to run around in and areas to explore," she said. "But he does need two support workers with him at all times to handle his volatile outbursts."

"His family love him dearly and I know they'll do the absolute best for him."

Image credit: Tagishsimon (talk) (Uploads) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]