Tees secured a life-changing settlement for the family of a boy born with Down's syndrome, where doctors had negligently failed to detect Down's syndrome during routine antenatal tests.
Aiden* was born with severe Down's syndrome, and suffers from severe developmental delays. He also has a profound learning disability and has special educational needs (SEN). He will never be able to live independently and requires life-long care. Aiden’s parents, Paula and Tim*, gave up their careers to care for him and suffered mental health issues following his birth.
Paula and Tim enjoyed successful careers before Aiden’s birth. Paula ran her own business, and Tim was vice president of a company. Both were established in their careers and felt ready to start a family. The couple were absolutely thrilled when Paula fell pregnant, and were excited to meet their much-wanted child.
Paula had routine antenatal screening during her pregnancy. Antenatal screening is offered during any pregnancy, and tests for serious conditions which could impact the child’s quality of life (known as ‘foetal anomalies’). When a test picks up an abnormality, or identifies a significant risk of an abnormality, it can be very distressing for parents to process the idea that the child they imagined was healthy may be born with an abnormality. The screening process is designed so that parents can make an informed decision about their pregnancy. If there are any signs of a serious abnormality or any serious risk of an abnormality, parents should be offered further tests, medical advice and support.
Paula’s screening tests were mistakenly interpreted as showing that her baby was at low risk of having Down's syndrome and Paula and Tim were incorrectly reassured that the risk of their baby being born with a serious disability was tiny. In fact, the screening test showed that the risk was high and Paula should have been offered amniocentesis. Amniocentesis is used to test for Down's syndrome and other conditions. Paula argued that the failure to correctly identify the risk of Down's syndrome during antenatal screening was negligent, that she would have requested an amniocentesis and that the amniocentesis would have diagnosed that their son had Down's syndrome. Paula and Tim would have been offered a termination. Ultimately, although difficult, their decision would have been to end the pregnancy.
The negligence in interpreting the results of the antenatal screening meant that Paula and Tim only discovered that Aiden had Down's syndrome shortly after his birth.
The circumstances of Aiden’s birth had a profound effect on Paula and Tim. It was an absolutely devastating shock, for which they had no time to prepare. Paula was unable to return to work, and developed a severe adjustment disorder and depression. Tim found the stress of caring for Aiden, supporting Paula and managing a demanding career overwhelming. He had to leave his job, as the stress left him unable to work and support his family. The couple had lost careers they were passionate about, and their financial security, whilst coming to terms with the very difficult situation they’d been placed in.
Paula and Tim approached Tees about a potential wrongful birth claim and we took their case on a 'No Win, No Fee' basis. Tees brought a claim against the hospital Trust responsible for Paula’s care. We also instructed medical experts to provide evidence throughout the case. Although the hospital initially denied liability, Tees fought on and eventually, the hospital conceded that the antenatal tests were incorrectly interpreted and that had Paula been correctly advised, she would have made the very hard decision to end the pregnancy.
As the case progressed, Tees secured substantial interim payments to cover the family’s immediate financial needs. The payments covered the cost of care for Aiden, suitable accommodation, specialist support, and everyday living expenses. This relieved much of the financial pressure on Paula and Tim, who could no longer work. It meant they could focus on bonding with their son and their own recovery.
Ultimately, Tees secured a very favourable settlement on behalf of Paula, Tim and Aiden. The final figure included a significant claim for the couple’s suffering, their loss of earnings and for the future costs of looking after Aiden. The settlement means that the family have access to the support they need, including therapy for therapy for Paula and Tim as well as reassurance that they have financial security going forward and funding for life-long care for Aiden.
“This was a particularly complex and sensitive case. The news that Aiden had Down syndrome was, understandably, a great shock to his parents – who only discovered the hospital’s mistakes after his birth. Aiden is much-loved by his parents, but the circumstances of his birth have had a profound effect on their lives and indeed the whole family. The settlement will provide Aiden with care for life, and ensure he can live his life to the fullest. The process has also helped his family come to terms with what has been a very difficult time in their lives. I feel privileged to have helped the family secure closure about Aiden’s birth, so they can move forwards together.”
Wrongful birth claims solicitors
Wrongful birth cases are very distressing for parents, and can change the whole family forever. It can seriously impact the parents’ relationship, career and plans for the future. They can also be very difficult to talk about – but there are people who can help. If you’d like to talk about making a claim, call our specialist wrongful birth claims solicitors.
*Client names have been changed to protect their privacy.