Hospital delivery rooms can sadly be scenes of tragedy as well as joy, and that was certainly so in one case in which a new mother was given the option of her baby girl's life support being switched off when it became clear that she would face a lifetime of acute disability.
Despite clear warning signs that she was in difficulty, the baby's delivery was very significantly delayed. She was effectively stillborn and suffered severe oxygen starvation and brain damage before she was resuscitated. Her mother chose life over death, but the girl suffers from severe mental and physical disabilities. She requires around-the-clock care and has to be fed through a tube.
Although she was not expected to live beyond the age of 17, her loved ones hoped that that gloomy prediction would turn out to be wrong. After her mother instigated proceedings on the girl's behalf, the NHS trust that ran the hospital admitted liability in full and issued a public apology for the shortcomings in the care provided.
A settlement of the case was negotiated whereby the trust agreed to pay a £3 million lump sum, plus annual, index-linked and tax-free payments to cover the costs of the girl's care regime for life. Those payments will start at £130,000 a year, before rising to £200,000 a year when the girl reaches her 11th birthday. When she is aged 19, they will rise again to £295,000 a year.
In approving the settlement, the High Court paid tribute to the quite exceptional care provided to the girl by her mother and her wider family. The Court agreed that the mother should receive £90,000 in recognition of the unstinting care she has lavished on her daughter since her birth.