Doctors can be relied upon to do their best but, where negligent mistakes are made, the legal profession steps in to ensure that those who suffer are fairly compensated. In one case, a little girl who was left catastrophically disabled due to a delay in her caesarean delivery won the right to seven-figure damages.
Following indications that the baby was suffering distress in the womb, a decision was taken to perform a caesarean section. Her head was heavily impacted in her mother's pelvis and a junior doctor became completely exhausted as she struggled for 14 minutes to deliver her. A consultant obstetrician was summoned from her home and, on arrival, took two minutes to achieve a delivery. The girl was born with serious injuries, having suffered oxygen starvation.
After proceedings were launched on behalf of the girl, aged seven, the High Court found that the most likely explanation for the delay was that the junior doctor lacked the skill and expertise required to cope with such a difficult birth. Whether due to a lack of training or an inability to cope with a highly pressurised situation, she had not adopted an appropriate technique for dislodging the baby's head.
Had she exhibited the standard of care to be expected of a reasonably competent obstetric registrar, the baby would have been born within five minutes of surgery being commenced and would have suffered no significant injury. The amount of the girl's compensation has yet to be assessed but, given the extent of her care needs, her award is bound to run into millions.