Woman with Spina Bifida Wins Case Against Her Mother's Doctor for Negligent Pre-Pregnancy Advice

·2 min read
OBGYN
OBGYN

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A 20-year-old woman has won a major legal victory against the doctor her mother consulted before she was conceived.

Evie Toombes, a para-showjumper from Skegness, England, who was born with a rare form of spina bifida, has been awarded the right to compensation after suing Dr. Philip Mitchell over claims that he failed to properly advise her mother, Caroline Toombes, to take vital supplements before she got pregnant.

The complaint alleged that had Caroline been told the importance of taking folic acid when trying to conceive to minimize the risk of spina bifida affecting her baby, she would have delayed pregnancy, and as a result, Evie would never have been born.

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Folic acid is uniformly recommended for women trying to conceive, as advised by the CDC, so as to "help prevent neural tube defects," such as spina bifida and other major birth defects.

The case explained that Caroline asked Dr. Mitchell in 2001 if she should wait for a period of time before trying to get pregnant after getting off birth control, and even brought up folic acid specifically.

Mitchell, who had no recollection of Caroline, had to refer to his "inadequate" notes of the exchange and his "standard practice" of preconception advice, saying that he recommended "folate if desired," which the court found to be insufficient advice.

"[Caroline Toombes] remembers the defendant telling her to go home and have 'lots of sex,' which she found somewhat blunt. She and Mr. Toombes restarted sexual intercourse after the consultation, and she became pregnant almost immediately [with her daughter, complainant Evie Toombes]," the judgment stated.

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In her ruling, Judge Rosalind Coe QC found that had Caroline been provided with the correct recommended advice, she would have delayed conception "which would have resulted in a normal healthy child."

The case is unprecedented in that it gives someone a "cause of action," or reason to sue, for having been born with a serious health condition. It also means that medical professionals can now be found liable for negligent pre-conception advice which results in the birth of a child with a major birth defect.

Evie Toombes
Evie Toombes

Victoria Jones / POOL / AFP

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Wednesday's case referred to Evie as a "remarkable young woman," a para-horse rider with a thriving Twitter and online presence who continues to inspire as an athlete, advocate and "hidden disability ambassador."

In 2018, Evie met with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle after being honored at the WellChild Awards in London. The ceremony recognizes the inspirational qualities of seriously ill children and young people and their families.

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