A woman recently won damages on behalf of her son for injuries sustained at his birth as a result of the alleged negligence of a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist in a case where it was ruled that doctors are under a duty to take reasonable care to ensure that patients are aware of any material risks involved in any recommended treatment and also of any reasonable alternative or variant treatments.
The relevant test of materiality in this case was whether a reasonable person in the patient’s position would be likely to attach significance to the risk, or the doctor was or should reasonably be aware that the particular patient would be likely to attach significance to it.
The pursuer of the claim, who was of small stature and suffered from diabetes, was regarded as having a high risk pregnancy. She was told that she was having a larger than usual baby but she was not told about the risks of experiencing mechanical problems during labour. In particular she was not told about the risk, which eventuated, of shoulder dystocia — the inability of the baby’s shoulders to pass through the pelvis. Also, other options, such as delivery by caesarean section, were not discussed.
The Court found that it had been incumbent on the doctor to advise the pursuer of the risk of shoulder dystocia if she were to have her baby by vaginal delivery and to discuss with her the alternative of delivery by caesarean section.