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The patients right to information

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A mother was recently awarded damages on behalf of her son, where doctors failed to warn her about the risk of her baby being injured if she had a natural birth.

The mother, who was of small stature and suffered from diabetes, was assessed as having a ‘high risk’ pregnancy. Although she was aware that she was having a large baby, she was not told that these factors could result in complications if she had a natural birth. In particular, she was not told about the risk of ‘shoulder dystocia’ — the inability of the baby’s shoulders to pass through the pelvis.

The Court explained that doctors should take reasonable care to ensure that patients are aware of any material risks involved in any recommended treatment. They should also discuss any reasonable alternative or variant treatments. The relevant test was whether a reasonable person in the patient’s position would attach significance to the risk, or the doctor ought to have been aware that the particular patient would be likely to attach significance to it.

In this case, the Court found that it had been incumbent on the consultant gynaecologist and obstetrician to inform the mother of the risk of shoulder dystocia if she had a vaginal delivery and to discuss the option of delivery by caesarean section as an alternative.

Ben Ellis, a Partner in Chattertons Solicitors said, “Patients understand that medical treatment can be tricky and that things can go wrong. But they do need to be aware of the risks involved - and whether there are any alternatives - so they can make informed decisions. If the mother in this case had been aware of the risk of her baby being injured during a natural birth, she may well have decided to have a c-section instead”.

If you would like assistance in relation to a medical negligence claim, call Ben on 01529 411500 for further information.