Compensation for the Failure to Recognise a Premature Birth Approved in Court

A £2 million settlement of compensation for the failure to recognise a premature birth has been approved in the High Court.

Thomas and Rachel Hartley from Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire were born at the Hemel Hempstead Hospital in October 1999 with spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy having been starved of oxygen in their mother´s womb.

Their mother – Joanna – had attended the hospital several days prior to their birth complaining of pregnancy complications; but she was prescribed with drugs to strengthen the babies´ lings and sent home – when in fact she was just about to deliver her children prematurely.

Due to the alleged misdiagnosis of Joanna´s condition, Thomas and Rachel are dependent on their parents for support and for communicating and will be confined to wheelchairs for the remainder of their lives.

On her children´s behalf, Joanna claimed compensation for the failure to recognise a premature birth against the West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust, claiming that if her condition had been correctly diagnosed, Thomas and Rachel would not have been starved of oxygen in the womb and sustained spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy.

The NHS Trust denied its liability for the children´s birth injuries, but made a £2 million offer of settlement in respect of Thomas´ injuries without an admission of liability (Rachel´s future needs are still being assessed). The offer was accepted, but first had to be approved by a judge before the claim in respect of Thomas could be resolved.

Consequently, in the High Court in London, Judge Peter Ralls QC heard the details of the claim for compensation for the failure to recognise a premature birth, and the offer of settlement that had been made by West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust. The judge approved the settlement, expressing his sympathy to Joanna and her husband, and saying “I wish you well for the future, and for your delightful children”.

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