Compensation for psychiatric harm after a mismanaged birth
Midwives have a legal duty of care to the women and babies in their charge. But, as Richard Griffith explains, in cases of negligence, other parties may also have a claim
The High Court has recently awarded damages for psychiatric harm to a mother whose baby had become stuck in the birth canal and had suffered a hypoxic injury due to lack of oxygen, and the grandmother who witnessed the negligently managed birth (Re (A minor) v Calderdale and Huddersfield Foundation NHS Trust ).
The law of negligence has long recognised that where midwives breach their duty of care by carelessly causing physical harm to the mother or baby, compensation for the harm caused must be paid (Montgomery v Lanarkshire Health Board ). While compensation for physical harm is a well established practice, the courts have been reluctant to allow claims for psychiatric harm, particularly where the claimant is a witness to the incident (Page v Smith ).
Negligence is best described as actionable harm and, to succeed, a claimant in a midwifery case must show that:
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