Letter: Medical blunders

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The Independent Culture
Sir: Your leading article on medical compensation cases (21 July) struck a nerve. Our 10-year-old daughter Tamara was born with very severe brain damage caused by the forceps trapping the umbilical cord, depriving the brain of oxygen.

We had taken great care in choosing a London hospital specialising in maternity work. We thought we would be in good hands. To get at the truth, we brought an action against the health authority. We did not want to point the finger of blame at anyone.

Despite difficulties - including important medical files going missing - our case got to court in less than four and a half years. After three weeks in the High Court, the judge ruled against us, describing what had happened as a "tragic mischance", but not the result of negligence.

Tamara can't walk. She can't talk. She can move her head, but nothing else. Tamara is probably as handicapped and has suffered as much as Ian Stewart and Sam Mansell, yet the court ruled against her. The court case must have cost many hundreds of thousands of pounds. Surely some of that would have been better spent in a compensation fund for such children.

We have felt for some time that some form of no-fault compensation system would be much fairer and relieve parents of the confrontational nightmare involved in court proceedings. The Health Secretary, Frank Dobson, is apparently proposing such a scheme. Perhaps the new Bill should be made retrospective to help children like Tamara, who despite everything still manages to smile and laugh.


Twickenham, Middlesex