I’ve just been reading a news story concerning a woman who, tragically, had a baby with anencephaly and has now successfully claimed damages against her G.P as he failed to advise her to take Folic Acid although he knew they were hoping to conceive. This woman had been pregnant before, no mention in the article about any previous history of NTD’s, had taken Folic Acid during these pregnancies but had thought that were for complications she was experiencing. G.P’s have criticised the decision to award damages as they believe that it places too much responsibility on them, and I agree with them, particularly in this case as the woman had been pregnant before and should have known why she was taking Folic Acid. I think that there must be some major information left out in the article because I cannot see how any judge, anywhere, would award these damages given what we are being told. The only factor I can see which may affect this is that the pregnancy was with a different partner and he may have had a history of NTD’s in his family. Taking folic acid anyway only reduces the risk, it does not prevent NTD’s. Certainly her G.P did not admit liability and unfortunately he declined to comment.
This all brings me round to the question of ‘How much responsibility is the woman’s when she is planning a pregnancy, or indeed when she is pregnant?’ In our ‘pregnancy notes’ which the women carry there are loads of questions and boxes to be ticked, one section allows us just to tick ‘experienced’, meaning that the woman has had a baby/babies previously so does not require the information, is this a safe assumption now? Talk about a ‘Nanny State’, it strikes me that no one is prepared to put their hands up and say ‘it’s my responsibility, I want to get pregnant, I am pregnant’ and search for the information themselves, everything has to be served up to them, and even when it has been previously placed in front of them they require a second helping.
How about those women who have been given the information, and choose to ignore it, smoking, alcohol, folic acid, etc if they have a baby with problems, which may not have occurred of they had followed their G.P’s/midwife’s advice, can the NHS claim damages against them for the extra care that baby will require?
With the facts, as laid out in this article, I consider this to be a decision with huge ramifications for anyone dealing with women of childbearing age. It has transferred a whole parcel of responsibility to health care providers and assumes that women have no accountability themselves for finding out what they can do for a healthy pregnancy or to reduce negative outcomes. I attempt to provide the women I see with all the information I am aware of, and I know that many of them don’t read half , not even half it. Basic stuff about different screening tests for themselves and baby. Ultimately though it would be their word against mine as to whether I had given them the information.
Scary stuff, but also an insult to a woman’s/couple’s capabilities when planning a family or finding out that they are having a baby.