Cases against medical practitioners are often based on failure to diagnose a condition or injury early enough. Delay can often have disastrous consequences resulting in severe injuries or even death.
In the case of Kate Woodward the damage caused by the delay was unusual but very severe none the less. She suffered from a pituitary tumour which went undiagnosed for years and which caused her to have a massive growth spurt. She is now 20 and is 6’ 5” tall. She alleged that this had ruined her plans to become an actor and she that will also need medical care for life. How do you put a figure on that?
The case came before the High Court this week and she was awarded £1.3m. The reasoning of the judge was that her entire life had been massively affected by the condition –
"My assessment is that the claimant's life has undoubtedly been severely affected to a very great extent and will always be very different from what she might otherwise reasonably have expected to look forward to. That will result in a substantial award."
Now whilst that might look like a lottery win it just about compensates for a lost career and a lifetime’s medical care. The trust had admitted negligence but disputed the amount of compensation.
This is one of many cases where a victim achieves justice following blunders by doctors. We are bombarded on all sides by rhetoric from politicians and the media that there is a compensation culture. These relentless attacks on victims create a belief amongst claimants that it is somehow their fault, that they are causing a drain on limited NHS funds.
But if a person’s life is ruined by the negligence of those who should care for her then they should be entitled to proper compensation from the state.
I have said this before and will say it again – it is a scandal that after April it will be impossible to get Legal Aid for a case like this. The alternative to legal aid has been no win no fee agreements but from the same time claimants could lose up to 25% of their damages in many cases.
If ever there was a case which demonstrated the injustice of these changes it is this.