As the Cleft Lip and Palate Association celebrates its 35th birthday this year and the charity promotes its annual awareness week (10-18 May 2014), the Penningtons Manches’ clinical negligence team considers the impact of delayed diagnosis on families with the linked condition of Patau’s syndrome.
The team has recently settled significant damages following the failure to diagnose Patau’s syndrome in an unborn child, resulting in the tragic death of a baby girl shortly after her birth.
Patau’s syndrome is a chromosomal abnormality which carries a high mortality rate with many significant congenital abnormalities. Approximately 60% of children with this syndrome present with either a cleft palate or cleft lip. With appropriate care, this condition can be picked up at 12 week or 20 week scans during pregnancy and the cleft lip and palate can be successfully treated with surgery.
Mrs T became pregnant in 2009 and attended a routine ultrasound scan appointment at 20 weeks. Mrs T was not asked about any abnormalities in her family’s medical history. If she had been asked, she would have explained that her father had a cleft lip and her husband’s cousin had a cleft lip and palate.
The ultrasonographer informed Mrs T that the scan showed no abnormalities. Mrs T’s 36 week scan showed her baby to be 95% smaller than most babies at that stage and an emergency lower segment caesarean section was performed on the same day. At her birth, Mrs T’s baby daughter was found to have an obvious cleft lip and palate, eyelids that would not open, abnormal feet, distorted hands and she otherwise looked dysmorphic. Chromosome tests were performed and she was diagnosed with Patau’s syndrome, for which there is no treatment. Mrs T was advised that her daughter had a very short life expectancy and she died 27 days later.
The hospital later paid damages following allegations put forward by Penningtons Manches that it had failed to recognise or diagnose a cleft lip, cleft palate and a range of other abnormalities consistent with Patau’s syndrome apparent at the 20 week scan. It was also alleged that the ultrasonagrapher was inadequately trained in the detection of a cleft lip or cleft palate. Mrs T was not advised to undergo amniocentesis and chromosomal analysis, which would have provided a likely diagnosis.
Mrs T was deeply traumatised following the death of her daughter and was formally diagnosed as suffering from Delayed Bereavement Reaction. She was grateful for the significant settlement obtained for her by partner, John Kyriacou and his team.
The clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches regularly investigate and successfully pursue claims for damages arising from a failure to appropriately detect abnormalities during maternity ultrasound scans.