In an extremely rare ‘wrongful birth’ case, a woman who would have terminated her pregnancy had she been aware that her son would be born gravely disabled has won a record £9 million in compensation from a negligent GP.
The woman was aware that haemophilia ran in her family and had attended her local surgery in order to find out if she was a carrier. She was given a blood test which was not capable of answering that question but only of diagnosing if she herself suffered from the condition. After a GP informed her that the test had come back negative, she was led to believe that any children she had would not be afflicted by haemophilia.
When her son was born five years later, he suffered from the condition. She then underwent genetic testing that confirmed that she was a carrier. Had she known that previously, foetal testing would have revealed her son’s condition and she would have opted to terminate her pregnancy at an early stage. The latter point was conceded by the GP, who admitted liability.
The GP’s lawyers accepted that the mother was entitled to be compensated for the additional costs involved in bringing up a child with haemophilia. However, by a stroke of bad luck, the boy had also been born with autism and it was argued that the mother was not entitled to damages in respect of the additional costs associated with that condition.
In upholding her claim in full, however, the High Court noted that the boy would never have been born had it not been for the GP’s admitted negligence. In those circumstances, the costs flowing from the boy’s autism also fell within the GP’s assumption of responsibility. The amount of the mother’s damages was agreed in the light of the Court’s ruling.