Health: Meningitis victim loses claim over spinal deformity

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A 32-year-old meningitis victim left with a "gross" spinal deformity yesterday lost a long legal battle for damages for alleged medical negligence.

Eleftherios Theodorou had sued Camden and Islington Health Authority claiming there was negligence during the first 10 days of his life. But a judge in the High Court in London dismissed his claim.

Judge Brunning said: "There is no doubt that the outcome of events in the late 1960s has had a tragically significant effect upon the plaintiff. But, I am equally in no doubt that this claim must fail."

The judge said Mr Theodorou, of Muswell Hill, north London, was born on August 5, 1965, in the maternity wing of the Whittington Hospital in north London.

He was noted at the time to have a small "dimple" on his spine which his mother pointed out to a female doctor and also to a consultant paediatrician, who examined it and told her there was nothing to worry about.

Mother and baby were discharged after 10 days. But problems with the baby's health began early in March 1966. The judge said that as a result of "infections and meningitis" the plaintiff had unfortunately "suffered considerably". This included a "spinal deformity which is gross and permanent".

Judge Brunning added that he had not been able to attend mainstream schools and his "intellectual development was accordingly impaired".

During the hearing there was evidence from four experts who all agreed the plaintiff's condition was "extremely rare".

It was claimed on Mr Theodorou's behalf that if he had been referred to a neurosurgeon the "meningitis would not have supervened and the subsequent problems would have been prevented".

But the judge ruled yesterday: "That the clinical response of the paediatrician in 1965 was not negligent in failing to refer the plaintiff to a neurosurgeon.

"The appearance and location of the `dimple' on the plaintiff's spine did not and ought not to have generated that degree of suspicion requiring a reasonably competent paediatrician to make such a referral."