Negligent acts that take place in just seconds or minutes can have life-changing consequences, but expert lawyers can painstakingly reconstruct such incidents years after the event. This is illustrated by a recent case in which bad advice given by a midwife during a two-minute telephone call had left a baby boy disabled for life.
The boy's teenage mother had woken at home in the early hours after her waters broke and painful contractions started. However, when she spoke briefly with a midwife, she was told to hang on for a bit longer and discouraged from going to hospital. About 40 minutes passed before her father phoned again and said that he was taking her to hospital immediately.
Her labour was progressing extremely quickly and, as the minutes ticked by, it became too late to carry out a Caesarean section. The baby was upside down in the womb and was starved of oxygen during his delivery. He suffered a total circulatory collapse for about 27 minutes before he was resuscitated, leaving him gravely disabled and in need of care for the rest of his life.
In ruling the NHS fully liable to compensate the boy, now nine, the High Court found that the midwife should at least have invited the mother to attend hospital for an assessment. In discouraging her from doing so, the midwife had fallen below an acceptable standard of competent care.
Had the mother arrived at hospital a few minutes earlier, the option of a Caesarean delivery would have remained open and the Court found that the boy would probably have been born uninjured. The amount of his compensation has yet to be assessed, but is bound to be a seven-figure sum given the extent of his disabilities.