Doctors, don’t dismiss parents’ intuition as it may save a child’s life

10th January 2020 Clinical Negligence

As well as being an extremely rewarding job which changes the lives of seriously injured people for the better, the role of a clinical negligence solicitor can also have its frustrating elements. These can arise due to unnecessary delays on the part of the NHS, its refusal to admit any wrong-doing despite overwhelming evidence or, on a national level, because we see the same mistakes recurring. All these issues unnecessarily compound the distress of our clients, which is why as solicitors we will always fight against them as much as we can.

However there is another issue which will strike a chord with any parents or carers who have looked after an unusually unwell child: that of not being listened to by medical professionals and being made to feel as though they are being over-protective. We are dealing with numerous cases at JMW where this ‘fobbing off’ of carers has led to very serious consequences for the child.

Mother saw what doctors couldn’t

A recent example is my case of Harley Holt, a seven-year-old boy who has been left with limited use of his right hand, left foot drop and walking problems after numerous failures by hospital doctors when he was suffering from an infection as a toddler. As a result Harley can’t ride a bike, as other seven-year-olds can. He also requires a wheelchair for longer distances and has an eye squint and very extensive scarring.

Harley’s mum Emma had taken him to the GP twice and to three different hospitals before he finally received the life-saving antibiotics he required. Harley nearly didn’t make it and it was only due to Emma’s persistence that he did. A simple blood test would have revealed that he was suffering from a bacterial infection. Emma even asked if one could be done but was told no. Harley has now won his case as I have obtained an admission of negligence from the hospital trust. However Emma wants to raise awareness of what happened to try to ensure that other families do not have to fight as hard as theirs to get treatment. This week Harley and Emma featured in the Daily Mail and you can read the article here.

Not heeding carers is foolish and dangerous

A carer who has never seen their child as unwell and feels strongly that they are ‘not right’ must always be heeded. They know their child better than anyone and hold vital information that can be used to help with making a diagnosis as quickly and accurately as possible. To discount them because they are not medically trained is not just foolish but also dangerous.

Thankfully some GPs and hospital doctors are aware of the important information that parents can provide and do heed what parents say. They will err on the side of caution when it comes to ordering investigations and ensuring consistent monitoring of the child. However until this is normal practice in every hospital and GP surgery there will continue to be children who are avoidably harmed with tragic outcomes.

So I would urge all doctors to take notice of a parent or carer who is telling you their child is ‘really not right’. This is not being overprotective and they have noticed things about their condition that you may not have. Don’t ignore them, it might just save that child’s life.

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Sally Leonards is a Partner located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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