Two cases have now come before the Courts in Ireland where the family of a child with Autism have sued the National Maternity Hospital over the circumstances surrounding the child’s birth.
- Updated Research
Over the last 10 years or so scientific evidence has developed and shown that perinatal and intranatal trauma are significant risk factors for developing autism. The first advancement in this regard was a Californian article in 2017 which examined the inter-relationship between birth trauma and the risk of developing autism.
Researchers discovered that nearly 40%, of the approximately 6,000 children reviewed, suffered complications either shortly before or during birth. The complications researchers found to be most closely related to autism included birth asphyxia and pre-eclampsia. This research has in turn led to more clinical negligence case investigations.
- Legal cases taken against National Maternity Hospital
The first test case in this jurisdiction was that of Finn Phillips v NMH. In June 2019 the case was settled by mediation where Mr. Justice Kevin Cross was happy to endorse a settlement of €7.25 million for a child that developed autism following a traumatic birth.
The infant was delivered by ventouse delivery and it was alleged that he was unnecessarily exposed to both asphyxia and trauma from the vacuum extraction. His legal team argued that this led to potential long term consequences. They claimed the injuries suffered included developmental delay and autism. It was claimed that there was a failure to manage the mother’s labour appropriately and an alleged failure to intervene in time.
Whilst this case is not a strict precedent as each case will turn on its own facts it is a landmark case in that it related to autism arising from a birth injury and was settled for a very significant sum.
Recently a second case against the National Maternity Hospital has been settled for €10 million, following an eight year battle. Ashton Shiels Flynn, through his mother Michelle, sued the NMH over the circumstances of his birth. The court heard it was only the second case to come before the courts seeking to establish an alleged link between autism and alleged hypoxic event during delivery.
- Causation and Negligence
As scientific research progresses causation factors will become definitive and unfortunately it seems probable that there will be a lot more of these type of cases as families investigate causation of autism and developmental delay.
Clinical negligence experts in the UK have indicated that the main areas of alleged negligence, and this is by no means an exhaustive list and will continue to be expanded upon, linking autism to birth would be:-
- Birth management and a failure to intervene in delivery;
- Instrumentation delivery;
- Delay in undertaking/undergoing a c-section;
- Next Steps for Families
It is important for families who have concerns regarding their child’s birth to take up the relevant medical records and seek expert advice from a team of legal and medical experts to identify any failures or negligence during delivery leading to increased risk of autism.
If you would like to arrange a consultation or would like further information please get in touch with Deirdre Rafferty of our office via phone or email email@example.com