The Right of the Unborn Child: Evie Toombes’ Case

The Right of the Unborn Child: Evie Toombes’ Case

Evie Toombes describes herself as a “Para Rider & Hidden Disability Ambassador” and her inspiring philosophy is “Find a way not an Excuse”. As a para showjumping sensation she has won many accolades rigging her horse Daisy. Through her activities and regular blogs she has done much to draw attention to the plight of those living with invisible illnesses and has a blog .

Evie was born with Spina Bifida, a birth defect in which there is incomplete closure of the spine and could lead to other health issues and challenges for the child. In her own case, as she describes it on her page, the condition affects the nerves to her legs, bladder and bowel. She would sometimes have to spend hours in a day attached to tubes.

To avoid birth defects, such as the one that Evie had to endure, doctors would usually advise expectant mothers to take folic acid supplements before and at least into the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. But in the case of Evie, Dr ‘M’, her mother’s GP had advised her before conception that folic acid was not necessary, leaving her with the option of taking the supplement only if she so desired. As it turned out, that was a bad advice. Evie was born on 19 November 2001 with spina bifida which most probably could have been avoided had she been on the supplement.

The legal action against the doctor was instituted by Evie’s parents. Their argument as advanced by their counsel was that had the doctor advised Evie’s mother appropriately, she would have taken the folic acid supplement before conception and avoided the health consequences which has adversely affected Evie. The court was persuaded by this argument and found that the folic acid supplement would have led to the conception of a normal, healthy baby. To this end, according to the court, there was enough ground for Evie to claim damages for her disability, including monetary support for the rest of her life.

Although the news as carried by most newspaper reports is that Evie won millions in damages against a doctor for “allowing her to be born” the court decision was actually for the negligent advice and failure to prescribe the vital supplement, resulting in an avoidable health condition that Evie would have to live with all through her life.The decision is. a wake up call to medical practitioners and indeed all professionals that they can become liable for professional negligence arising from poor advice. According to many legal experts, this is a landmark judgment by the UK High Court showing that actions for professional negligence can be brought against health care practitioners for pre-natal advice that results in a birth defect or serious health condition.For a detailed insight into this case and its implications for the medical and legal profession, read here.