pounds 3.28m... but it won't take Sam's pain away

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A BOY OF 11 who was brain-damaged at birth won compensation of pounds 3.28m yesterday in what is believed to be the largest medical negligence payout in British legal history.

Sam Mansell, who is confined to a wheelchair and requires round-the- clock nursing, was starved of oxygenwhen the obstetrician in charge of his delivery failed to manage the birth properly. Sam was eventually born by emergency Caesarean.

The size of the award, which will pay for two professional carers to look after Sam 24 hours a day, will increase the pressure on hospitals and health authorities to curb the soaring cost of medical negligence claims. In 1996 to 1997, litigation cost the NHS pounds 235m and the sum is rising at more than 15 per cent a year.

Yesterday, Penny Mansell, Sam's mother, spoke of her decade-long fight for help to look after her son, who was born in September 1987 at Withybush hospital, Haverfordwest. She had telephoned social services up to seven times a day in the early years and social workers had described her as unstable.

"I have spent 11 years trying to get money from the state and they have called me difficult... [Sam] need not have been so disabled if the proper therapies and equipment he needed were available, and he would be walking on sticks now."

Ms Mansell, from Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire, had tried and failed to win damages for her son for his first seven years of life, before being put in touch with a Manchester law firm, Alexander Harris, which specialises in medical negligence cases.

Ms Mansell was speaking outside the High Court in Manchester, where the out-of-court settlement was agreed with Dyfed-Powys Health Authority.

In tears, she said: "The only thing I know is that it's finished. For Sam, he's in emotional and physical pain on a daily basis and it's always going to be there, the money won't take that away ... but now he's going to get a quality of life and a future."

Sam cannot eat or speak and his limbs thrash uncontrollably. He is constantly bandaged to prevent him injuring himself and equipment has to be padded. However, his intelligence is unimpaired and he is about to transfer from primary to secondary school.

Ms Mansell said: "Inside Samuel's head is a normal 11-year-old boy ... He has a great hunger for life and he wants to achieve."