Earlier this week, The Guardian reported on what could be the biggest Medical Negligence payout that has been seen in the UK. Damages could be as high as £24m.
As is so often the case, this was a tragedy which was completely avoidable.
Maisha Najeeb suffered from arterio-venous malformation (AVM). It is a condition that affects the blood vessels in the brain. It is manageable condition. Treatment involves the use of a type of glue. Dye is then injected to monitor the blood flow. Due to a catastrophic error the glue was injected into her brain instead of the dye. As a result she is now profoundly brain damaged.
Maisha was a generally healthy 10 year old who is now dependant on others for the rest of her life. The hospital admitted negligence and promised to introduce measures to avoid a similar mix up happening again.
It is easy to see awards like this as some sort of lottery win. In fact the actual award could be far less. If Maisha lives to 64 then the total annual payments will reach the £24m mark. If she only lives to a much younger age then payments will stop.
But I would not be surprised to hear politicians and some newspapers bemoaning the cost of these pay outs to the beleaguered NHS. We might even here the tired references to a compensation culture and defensive medicine. The reality is that this was a blunder which has ruined the life of a bright young girl. The compensation will just about cover her medical and care needs for life – however long or short that might be.
It is almost certain that Maisha’s case was pursued with the benefit of legal aid. Children were automatically eligible in their own right until last year. If the case was starting today there would be no legal aid. The state no longer funds actions like this – even where a life is destroyed by the state’s own health service. She would have to find a lawyer willing to pursue the case on a no win no fee basis. Yes – those very no win no fee lawyers who are regularly blamed for everything except the weather –
Some of her damages could even have been eaten up in legal costs.
It is so pleasing to see some justice for Maisha. All the money in the world will not give her back her life.
This is exactly the sort of case that demonstrates the need for a justice system that gives access to all.