The decision of McManus v Murrumbidgee Local Area Health Network  NSWSC 1347 handed down last month highlights the type of compensation that can be awarded by a Court to parents who have been psychiatrically or psychologically affected by the death of their child due to medical negligence. This decision is particularly relevant in light of the recent baby death at Bankstown hospital and the possible compensation claim which may soon follow.
In this case, Ms McManus alleged that staff at Wagga Wagga Based hospital failed to properly monitor her labour or manage her antenatal period causing her unborn child to die shortly after birth. She alleged that the death of her son could have been avoided through earlier Caesarean intervention.
In mid-April 2010, Ms McManus suffered from a severe attack of gastroenteritis. She was treated at Wagga Wagga Base hospital and tests were performed to monitor the health of her unborn baby. On 14 May 2010, a dispute arose as to whether she should be discharged. She was eventually discharged but returned to the hospital the following morning and was told she needed to undergo a Caesarean section. She awoke in the delivery room post surgery and was informed that her baby did not survive.
The Court heard how Ms McManus’ entire life had changed as a result of the death of her child. Ms McManus used to be a confident woman who was driven, hard working and caring. However, she is now angry and depressed. She is constantly anxious and nervous and finds it difficult to sleep at night. She has poor concentration and is forgetful. She has abused alcohol and was admitted to hospital for professional help and rehabilitation.
The Court also heard how the death of her baby has affected Ms McManus’ social life. She now finds it difficult to maintain conversations with people for long periods of time and cannot cope with large crowds. She is socially withdrawn and rarely leaves the house unaccompanied. Her relationship with her husband has also deteriorated.
Ms McManus was awarded $1.8 million in compensation due to medical negligence. In reaching this verdict, the Court found that Ms McManus was seriously ill and her condition and prognosis was unlikely to improve. In particular, her post traumatic stress disorder and depressed and anxious state rendered her disabled on an ongoing and unrelenting basis, therefore preventing her from participating in a wide range of fundamental daily activities.
This case highlights how, in circumstances where liability is proved, the Court will consider each case individually and on its merits.
At Turner Freeman Lawyers, we specialise in medical negligence claims. If you or someone you know has suffered from medical treatment which you believe was not appropriate, we encourage you to call 13 43 63 to speak with one of our medical law experts today.