The clinical negligence birth injury team at Penningtons Manches LLP has recently secured a favourable judgment from the High Court for a young man with intractable epilepsy, a form of epilepsy in which medicines do not work well or at all to control the seizures. Our client’s clinical negligence claim relates to the negligent management of his birth, for which the defendant NHS bodies involved have accepted some liability. His claim for damages is now being quantified with a view to the parties hopefully being able to agree the award he requires to provide him with professional care, support, therapies and accommodation for life.
National Epilepsy Week (17-23 May) helps to raise awareness and understanding of a condition that causes repeated seizures and is estimated to affect more than 500,000 people in the UK - almost one in every 100 people.
The Penningtons Manches team represents a number of families with children with cognitive injuries, some of whom have epilepsy. How epilepsy presents itself and the severity of seizures it causes can differ from person to person. Some people simply experience an odd feeling with no loss of awareness or may have a ‘trance-like’ state for a few seconds or minutes, while others lose consciousness and have convulsions.
In the case of our client, this young man’s seizures can vary from just a few seconds of activity, in which his eyes will flutter and he may turn rigid, to far more severe fits which can last up to seven or eight minutes and sometimes necessitate hospital admission. The most frightening symptom is when he suffers a ‘drop attack’ without any warning. He can seem fine one minute and then collapse the next. As a precaution, he always wears a protective helmet outdoors.
Our client’s family has kept a diary of his seizure activity in a bid to record and spot any patterns to be able to try to predict his seizure activity. Here is an extract from one particular morning that illustrates the reality of his condition:
“Seizure was started by a falling chair in the hall. 9.55am. Able to walk into the classroom. Very shaky and leaning heavy. Drifting in and out of seizures - which lasted different lengths of time from 10 seconds to over a few minutes. Ticking tongue – pulled right hand at my arm. Gripping/pinching fingers. Afterwards very tired, yawning, slightly vacant and pale. 10.15 am rang for an ambulance. When they arrived he was still going in and out of seizures. Ambulance man gave oxygen and monitored his heart rate. They left when he was stable and settled 11-ish.”
Commenting on this case, Alison Johnson, senior associate in the clinical negligence team, said: “This young man’s epilepsy is so severe that he will require considerable professional care around the clock for the rest of his life to keep him safe, maximise his quality of life and allow him to live with as much independence as he can manage. His parents have fought tirelessly to get him the support he needs, to keep him motivated and active and to progress his education. We pay tribute to them for that and hope that the claim will settle and the final damages award be approved by the High Court later this year.”
For further insight into the life of an epilepsy sufferer, please see more from the diary of our client’s family.
See here for more information about National Epilepsy Week.