UK woman sues mother's doctor for being born; wins millions
Evie Toombes (20), a star showjumper from the United Kingdom, has won the right to millions in damages after she sued her mother's doctor claiming she should never have been born. Toombes initiated the "wrongful conception" damages claim against Dr. Philip Mitchell as she suffers from spina bifida and sometimes spends 24 hours a day connected to tubes. Here are more details.
Why does it matter?
- The UK High Court's ruling is considered ground-breaking as it holds health professionals liable for negligence in pre-conception advice.
- It sets a precedent that health professionals are legally liable to patients for any negligence which may result in the birth of a child with serious health conditions.
- Spina bifida is associated with damage to the spinal cord and nerves, which may cause severe disabilities.
Doctor didn't give proper advice: Toombes
Last month, in a "wrongful conception" damages claim, Toombes sued Dr. Mitchell over his failure to advise her mother, Caroline Toombes (50), to take vital supplements before getting pregnant. Had the doctor advised Toombes' mother she needed to take folic acid supplements to minimize the risk of spina bifida affecting her baby, she would have deferred pregnancy, Toombes claimed.
What did the judge say?
Judge Rosalind Coe QC noted that Dr. Mitchell had not told Mrs. Toombes the importance of taking folic acid supplements before pregnancy. Had her mother been "provided with the correct recommended advice," she would have delayed attempts to conceive, the judge ruled. "In the circumstances, there would have been a later conception, which would have resulted in a normal healthy child," she added.
Compensation to cover Toombes' life-long care
The lawyers representing Toombes said the amount of compensation has not yet been calculated. However, they confirmed that it would be "big" given that it would cover her extensive life-long care needs.
Dr. Mitchell denies claims of negligence
Representing the doctor, Michael De Navarro QC denied liability. Navarro submitted that Mrs. Toombes might already have been pregnant when she went to see Dr. Mitchell. Advising 400 micrograms of the supplement comprises usual practice for Dr. Mitchell, he said. Dr. Mitchell accepted the supplements would be less important if the mother had a good diet, but denied saying the supplements were unnecessary.
Toombes was diagnosed with lipomyelomeningocele
After her birth in November 2001, Evie Toombes was diagnosed with a lipomyelomeningocele, a form of neural tube defect to the spine. This leads to permanent disability. Reportedly, her mobility is "very limited" and she will increasingly become more dependent on a wheelchair with age. However, despite all odds, she has a successful career in showjumping and competes against riders with and without disabilities.