Northern Ireland

Belfast Health Trust agrees £5m settlement over brain damage

Royal Hospital Maternity
Image caption The child was starved of oxygen while being born at the Royal Victoria Hospital

A 10-year-old County Antrim girl who suffered brain damage at birth is to receive more than £5m in damages, it has been revealed.

The settlement in a medical negligence claim brought by her parents is one of the biggest of its kind in NI.

It was agreed during the summer, but had not been revealed until now.

The parents sued Belfast Health and Social Care Trust after she was starved of oxygen while being born at the Royal Victoria Hospital in 2002.

The girl, who cannot be identified, was left with severe cerebral palsy and requires constant care.

Liability was finally accepted by the Belfast Trust as the case was about to go to trial at the High Court in Belfast earlier this year.

A compensation package in excess of £5m was then approved by the judge during the summer.

The case centred on an allegation that the midwife failed to maintain proper, continuous foetal monitoring in the latter stages of delivery.

If that had been carried out it is believed the unborn baby's distress due to a lack of oxygen would have been detected immediately.

Responsibility for what went wrong was strenuously denied right up to the last minute, according to the family's solicitor.

The case was only conceded following a forensic analysis of notes and records from the birth.

The family's lawyer, Brian Stewart, senior partner with O'Reilly Stewart Solicitors, said they could have been spared serious stress if the true facts had been accepted sooner.

Mr Stewart said: "It's a tragedy that this had to happen because of a short period of inattention.

"This child could have been delivered completely healthy and these very large sums would not be necessary for her care and providing a reasonable home in the future."

He stressed the award was small consolation for the girl's parents.

"They see only too well what might have been - her personality shines through despite her disability.

"Her teacher describes her as a lovely girl and a joy to teach."

Praise was also given for the backing that enabled the family to bring their action.

Mr Stewart said: "Without the support of legal aid this case could not have gone to court and a huge injustice would have occurred."