HEALTH chiefs have secretly settled a 23m law suit brought by the parents of a child whose spine was damaged at birth.
Greater Glasgow Health Board admitted negligence over the forceps delivery of the child, which happened more than a decade ago.
The case has been settled out of court and the amount of damages kept secret, but given the size of the original claim it could have set a new Scottish record.
The child, who has not been named, needs 24-hour care for the rest of his life, at a cost of hundreds of thousands of pounds annually.
The case was settled in February but has only come to light because the judge was asked by lawyers to issue a legal opinion on how the settlement was reached.
Concern has been growing over the millions of pounds paid out in negligence cases by Scottish health boards, the vast majority of which are kept secret.
Lord Stewart’s observations were published today (Thu) by the Scottish Court Service.
The judge said the boy in the Court of Session case was left paralysed from the head down.
Lord Stewart said the boy suffered
“catastrophic neurological trauma’ at birth.
“During delivery assisted by Keilland’s forceps there was a compression-torsion injury of his spinal cord at the highest level.
“The claimant’s brain was spared, but he is paralysed from the head down. He cannot breathe spontaneously. He requires ventilatory support with 24-hour care and supervision. Care costs are easily the biggest head of claim. “
Lord Stewart decided that part of the settlement should be in the form of periodical payments for the duration of the boy’s life.
He said this would avoid the problem of a lump sum either being too much or too little.
“The cost of 24-hour care for someone with the claimant’s needs is, at present values, hundreds of thousands of pounds a year for life.
“Life expectancy is therefore central to the quantification of damages. “
Lord Stewart said life expectancy predictions made by experts for both sides were often years apart.
The differences translated into lump sums could amount to millions of pounds,
“Consequently,’ said Lord Stewart,
“lump sum awards are almost inevitably going to be too little or too much. Either the patient outlives the award and is left without care, or the patient pre-deceases and the family receives a windfall, probably at taxpayers’ expense in medical cases. “
Greater Glasgow Health Board said in a statement: “An out of court settlement has now been reached regarding this tragic case.
“Whilst we are unable to comment on the detail of this we can confirm that the settlement was not in the order of that originally sought by the claimant.
“It was agreed that an initial lump sum would be paid to the claimant together with yearly payments thereafter.”
Concern has been growing for a number of years over the rising number of negligence pay outs, with the figure rising six-fold in just 10 years.
Patients have sued after having foreign objects such as forceps, needles and swabs. Others have been left with torn organs following surgery.
Between April 2007 and April 2009 the NHS paid out a staggering 37.5m in compensation to victims of medical negligence.
In 2007 alone they paid out 23m, which was two and a half times the amount paid out the previous year.
In the 1997/1998 financial year the figure was 3.5m, two years later it had fallen to just 3m before rising to 4m in 2000/2001.
The single biggest payout for medical negligence was made in 2009 to a boy who was severely disabled at birth by a hospital mistake. He received 5.25m in compensation, a figure which eclipsed the previous record of 3m.
The payout was at least 1m more than the total annual bill for the whole of Scotland between 1997 and 2001.
It’s believed that at least 21,000Scots were victims of medical blunders last year, with some victims dying as a result.