JMW addresses celebrity's 'Loose' thoughts on taking legal action for your injured child

23rd January 2017 Clinical Negligence

Celebrity Katie Price reportedly claimed on TV last week that her disabled son Harvey suffered partial brain damage due to a mistake made by a hospital. To an extent she shone a light on an issue that, although statistically rare, still happens all too often: children suffering devastating injuries as babies that will affect them for the rest of their life.

However, there was an element to her comments that I wanted to reassure parents of children who have been injured by medical errors about. According to the Daily Mail website, Ms Price said in her appearance on Loose Women that she couldn't take legal action against the hospital because 'you need them, the NHS, for the rest of his life, so we just deal with it as it is'.

Obviously we do not know exactly what Ms Price meant by her comment and we do not wish to misrepresent her but there are a couple of potential connotations. One is that it is wrong to take money away from the NHS to cover the cost of care for the disabled child, which is extremely expensive, even if it is needed due to unacceptable errors. And two that the child's ongoing medical treatment will be compromised if legal action is pursued where medical negligence is suspected.

As a specialist working in this field on behalf of numerous families and with many years of experience I would like to offer an alternative view to anyone harbouring concerns. Firstly, challenging the NHS on behalf of a child who has been severely injured is never as easy thing to do. However, for most of us who do not have the financial means to provide a disabled child with the best possible care and quality of life, it is quite simply necessary.

Most family homes are not built to ensure the safety of disabled people so adaptations or larger, adapted properties need to be purchased, the cost of this alone can run into millions. Meanwhile parents will frequently need to give up work to care for the child as best they can even though they don't have the specialist expertise needed. I have yet to meet a family who is able to easily cover the cost of this. They are usually struggling, desperate and with other children to think of, as well as dealing with the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to them.

For families who are in this position due to care that is deemed substandard by medical and legal experts they are entitled to financial help to cope with their situation. Yes, this is very costly for the NHS but that is not the family's fault and there are many ways the health service can address this. Ensuring there are enough staff on duty, that they are adequately trained and that guidelines are followed would avoid many of the errors the medical negligence team at JMW sees.

More often than not families are looking for more than money when they consider a clinical negligence claim, which is the only form of recourse open to them. They want answers and often find doors are closed on them when they try to obtain these themselves. The legal process can allow parents to know the full truth about what happened to their child and crucially lead to an apology and for lessons to be learned, which for them is priceless.

The other point I wanted to reassure families about was that their child's ongoing care could be compromised due to a clinical negligence claim being pursued. This is simply not the case and in all our team's many years of experience we have never encountered this. The NHS deals with many thousands of claims against it every year. Providing those patients with even more substandard care would be illegal, as well as creating many more problems for an already struggling NHS.

The families of children with brain damage due to medical errors, who are trying to give them a safe and secure life and financial certainty in the future, should not feel guilty or concerned about ongoing treatment. The laws surrounding clinical negligence are there to protect all patients, while ensuring those that are harmed are provided for, that standards are maintained and that where mistakes have been made lessons are learned.

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Angharad Hughes is a Partner located in Manchesterin our Clinical Negligence department

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