Devastated parents sue hospital after doctors fail to identify unborn baby's disabilitiesParents claim they would have aborted pregnancy if disabilities were knownTheir little girl will require round-the-clock care for life after problems missedThe couple are now suing John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, for 300,000
23:48 GMT, 5 January 2013
23:48 GMT, 5 January 2013
A devastated couple are suing a top NHS hospital for 300,000 after doctors failed to identify that their unborn child was severely disabled.
The case is highly controversial because the couple claim they would have made the heartbreaking decision to abort the pregnancy if they had known their daughter would be so profoundly disabled.
But instead, the child will now require a lifetime of round-the-clock care after two separate specialists at Oxford’s John Radcliffe Hospital failed to spot the significant problems during routine ante-natal scans.
The parents are now suing the John Radcliffe Hospital, in Oxford, for 300,000 after scans missed their baby's disabilities
The little girl is described in documents filed at the High Court as having ‘extremely severe disabilities’ with several crucial bones missing. Because she is still very young, the full extent of her disabilities ‘is not yet known’.
The documents say: ‘It is the Claimant’s case that, had foetal abnormalities been detected during the course of foetal ultrasound scanning, as they ought to have been, then the First Claimant together with the Second Claimant would or should have been offered to terminate the pregnancy.’
Abortions carried out because of a risk of the child being born disabled – known as ground E abortions – can take place at any time during pregnancy. About 2,300 abortions were carried out for this reason in the UK last year, most for chromosomal conditions such as Down’s syndrome.
All pregnant women are offered two ultrasound scans at between 11 and 14 weeks to date the pregnancy and again between 18 and 23 weeks to detect any abnormalities. Both can pick up severe disabilities at an early stage.
Some campaigners argue that a child can still live a relatively full life despite substantial disability. Josephine Quintavalle, from Campaign for Reproductive Ethics, said: ‘Being born disabled is not necessarily incompatible with life.’
A spokeswoman for the Family Planning Service said parents had a right to be fully informed. ‘If there are foetal abnormalities, women can choose to have an abortion. It’s a fundamental decision about family life.’
The couple were concerned during the pregnancy after the mother unwittingly had surgery under general anaesthetic, but an ultrasound at the hospital found no cause for concern
The couple, who are in their 40s and have two older children, needed counselling about the child’s disabilities.
The little girl’s condition was particularly devastating because the couple had raised concerns during the pregnancy that their unborn baby may have suffered deformities.
The mother unwittingly had surgery under general anaesthetic before realising she was pregnant, which is not recommended because of potential risks to the child. But they were reassured after an ultrasound at the John Radcliffe found no cause for concern.
A second scan, supposed to detect any abnormalities, including missing bones, also failed to pick up any problems. The sonographer wrote in the notes that there was ‘no evidence of a foetal abnormality’.
A hospital consultant later wrote in the woman’s medical records: ‘I have explained that we would normally expect a defect of the type affecting XX to have been detected at the anomaly scan stage and that our failure to do so is very disappointing to all concerned. I have apologised to them for the failure.’
The court documents say: ‘Damages are claimed for their own personal injury, loss and expense that they have each suffered, and by both Claimants for the additional cost of raising XX attributable to her disabilities.’
A spokeswoman for the hospital said she was unable to comment.