‘Wrongful conception’: UK woman with spina bifida wins case against physician claiming she shouldn’t have been born

A United Kingdom woman who’s been debilitated with spina bifida all her life won a case Wednesday against her mother’s physician claiming “wrongful conception” — meaning she would not have been born had the doctor given her mother proper medical advice, the Sun reported.

What are the details?

Evie Toombes (20) took Dr. Philip Mitchell to court over his alleged failure to tell her mother to take folic acid prior to pregnancy to minimize the risk of a baby developing spina bifida, the paper said.

Toombes’ mother Caroline, now 50, claimed that while Mitchell discussed folic acid during her February 2001 appointment, its importance in preventing spina bifida was not discussed, the Sun reported.

Caroline added that Mitchell instead told her to go home, have “lots of sex,” and added that folic acid supplements were “not necessary. I was advised that if I had a good diet previously, I would not have to take folic acid,” the paper said.

After her birth in November 2001, Evie Toombes was diagnosed with a lipomyelomeningocele, a neural tube defect of the spine leading to permanent disability, the Sun said.

The plaintiff’s argument was that had the doctor informed Toombes’ mother of the importance of taking folic acid, she would have delayed pregnancy until after taking a course of folic acid, and then she would have attempted to conceive, the paper said.

Attorney Susan Rodway argued that Toombes was a victim of a “wrongful conception” that resulted in her being “born in a damaged state,” the Sun said.

But a delay in the pregnancy of Toombes’ mother would have resulted in a “genetically different person” from Evie Tombes, Rodway also argued, the paper reported.

With that, the judge awarded Toombes the right to receive monetary compensation, the Sun said, adding that Toombes’ attorneys said it probably would be “big” since it would cover expenses related to care that she’ll require throughout her life.

Toombes’ mobility was said to be “very limited,” the paper said, adding that she suffers from bowel and bladder issues, and will depend more and more on a wheelchair as she grows older.

Still, Toombes also has an equestrian career in spite of her physical limitations, the Sun added.

Anything else?

Mitchell’s attorney denied liability and argued that Toombes’ mother may have been pregnant already while consulting with the doctor, the paper said, adding that his client insisted he gave “reasonable advice” about folic acid supplements — and that Mitchell’s typical suggestion was that those wanting to become pregnant should take 400 micrograms of folic acid all through the first trimester.

The doctor also denied telling Toombes’ mother to not take folic acid, the Sun said.

But in London’s High Court, Judge Rosalind Coe ruled against the doctor, the paper said:

In the circumstances I find that Mrs. Toombes was not pregnant at the time of the consultation with Dr. Mitchell. She was not advised in accordance with the guidance to take folic acid prior to conception and for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. She was not advised about the relationship between folic acid supplementation and the prevention of spina bifida/neural tube defects. Had she been provided with the correct recommended advice, she would have delayed attempts to conceive. In the circumstances, there would have been a later conception, which would have resulted in a normal healthy child. I therefore find that the claimant’s claim succeeds on liability.

The Sun said the case will return to court to determine the full amount of Toombes’ compensation unless the parties agree outside of court.


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