Jonathan Wellington, Partner at Watkins & Gunn and Head of Clinical Negligence, comments on the reporting of a recent Medical Negligence case and explains the facts behind the headline.
This week a popular tabloid newspaper reported that a 9 year old boy “wins a £17 million pounds NHS pay out after he was left brain damaged”.
The background is that the boy was born healthy, but failures to ensure that he got the proper nutrition after he was born led to his brain damage. The child’s blood sugar levels fell dangerously low at Hertfordshire Lister Hospital, he now needs 24 hour care and is unable to do anything for himself.
Liability was admitted in full.
I found the headline infuriating for two reasons :-
Firstly, there will not be a “pay out” of £17 million, but actually an initial lump sum of £5.9 million followed by index linked annual payments for life to cover the costs of his care for life. These start at £147,500 per annum before rising to £200,000 per annum at 11 and £299,000 per annum at 19.
Secondly, the headline used the word “wins” as you might when someone wins the lottery . In my view this is so misleading to readers and inflammatory – there are no winners in such a tragic case. Compensation is not a windfall, it is a payment are based on guidelines and evidence designed to compensate for actual loss, including pain and suffering, loss of earnings and future losses, all of which are very carefully calculated. As a guide the compensatory damages for the injuries suffered are likely to be in the bracket of £240,000 – £350,000. The balance of the initial lump sum will be to cover things such as, adaptive aids, potentially adapted accommodation and past care.As can be seen the annual payments are made in respect of ongoing care and recurring costs which will have been carefully calculated.
I would hope that readers would appreciate that this is no way a win and indeed every parent I have dealt with in this type of situation would willingly swap the money received by way of compensation for a healthy child.