A woman has successfully sued her doctor for failing to order an ultrasound that may have prevented her from being born with a condition known as gross hydrocephalus.
In the case presented to the New South Wales Supreme Court, the plaintiff alleged that she was born with cerebral palsy as a result of inaction on behalf of her mother’s obstetrician.
The woman did not blame her doctor for causing the hydrocephalus. Rather, she asserted that the doctor had failed to order an ultrasound that would have detected the build-up of fluid inside her skull.
At about 36 weeks into pregnancy, the plaintiff’s mother sought a consult with the obstetrician after a series of unusual complaints including abdominal pains and swelling – conditions that had not been experienced in her past pregnancies.
During one of these consultations, it was alleged that the doctor determined that the prenatal plaintiff was presenting an “unstable lie” – where a foetus over 32 weeks repeatedly changes position.
At this point the mother asked whether an ultrasound was needed, fearing for the health of her unborn child.
The court heard that the doctor questioned the need for the procedure, saying words to the effect of: “No, why should you have another ultrasound? You’ve had all your routine ultrasounds.”
According to the plaintiff, the decision to have a further scan may have detected her gross hydrocephalus, allowing the appropriate medical treatments to be administered that may in turn have had a significant impact on her quality of life.
One of the more common treatments for this condition is the surgical implantation of shunting devices.
These procedures allow the excess fluid to drain away from the brain more easily and – in this case – potentially reducing the pressure on the brain.
It was the contention of the plaintiff that her condition was made worse by the obstetrician’s decision to not administer the ultrasound test.
Currently the court has upheld the plaintiff’s case, with the compensation amounts still to be assessed.
Medical negligence lawyers can assist patients who suffer from malpractice at the hands of specialists and hospital staff by guiding them through the legal processes involved in applying for compensation.
While the prospect of gathering the documentation and professional opinions required for a successful claim can seem daunting, an experienced compensation lawyer will be able to help former patients by providing access to the resources required to launch a successful claim.