A woman in England who was born with spina bifida sued her mother’s doctor for allegedly giving her negligent pre-pregnancy advice. Evie Toombes won the right to compensation after suing Dr. Philip Mitchell, saying he failed to properly advise her mother about the importance of taking vital supplements before she got pregnant.
Evie’s complaint alleged that if her mom, Caroline, had been told by her doctor the importance of taking folic acid supplements before conception in order to minimize the risk of neurological birth defects including spina bifida, Caroline would have delayed getting pregnant. As a result of receiving better advice before she conceived Evie, Caroline’s pregnancy would have been delayed and Evie never would have been born. It’s unclear if Caroline is upset that her daughter was born and sought compensatory damages, but it doesn’t appear that she is at this point.
But Evie seems upset that she was born and would like it to go away. Has her life been terrible because of her disability? It doesn’t seem so. She is currently 20 years old and was described in her court case as a “remarkable young woman.” She’s a para-house rider with an online presence who inspires others as an athlete, advocate, and ambassador for people with disabilities. In 2018, she was honored at the WellChild Awards in London, a ceremony that recognizes the inspirational qualities of seriously ill children and young people.
If Evie was born without spina bifida, she never could have won a prestigious award for her accomplishments as a disabled person. But she didn’t sue the WellChild Awards program and complain about things she couldn’t control, such as words not spoken before she was born.
In her ruling, Judge Rosalind Coe QC found Dr. Mitchel at fault, saying that if he had provided Caroline with correct advice, she would have delayed conception, “which would have resulted in a normal healthy child.”
This case is unprecedented and gives someone a “cause of action,” or legitimate reason to sue, for having been born with a serious health problem. Now, medical professionals can be found liable for negligent pre-conception advice which results in the birth of a child with a serious birth defect.
Luckily, all of this happened in a different country. Hopefully, lawsuits of this kind won’t catch on and be upheld in America. If doctors can be found liable for giving advice about babies before they’re conceived, malpractice insurance rates are going to skyrocket. Doctors will need to record all interactions with patients to prove that they gave the correct advice verbally at all times. This would harm doctor/patient trust and could lead to a sparring relationship instead of the healer/healed effect most of us strive for when seeking medical help.