Parents win big for Down’s baby

2013-05-07 00:00

A DURBAN couple’s 10-year fight for justice was rewarded yesterday with a R6,6 million payout to secure the future of their special needs Down’s Syndrome baby.

The couple — Kishore and Jayanthie “Sharon” Sonny — were awarded a settlement of R4 458 000 by the office of the KZN Premier plus R2,2 million from eThekwini Municipality to compensate them for the negligence of staff at Addington Hospital and Clare Estate Clinic, which led to the birth of the baby on November 16, 2002.

Sharon Sonny said she was relieved that the case was over even though she was “disappointed and disturbed” that it took 10 years for justice to prevail.

She was very happy that they finally had the means to pay for the therapy and specialised care that their daughter needs.

The couple plans to invest some of the money to ensure their child’s future care.

“I don’t want my baby to have to move into a home when I am no longer there to take care of her.”

Sonny said the past 10 years had been “stressful and frustrating”.

She and her husband had provided for their daughter as best they could.

“I did what could fit my pocket,” she said.

She said the little girl, though 10 years old, is “like a two-year-old”.

“I have to bath her and do everything for her.”

She said the child was in a special school for disabled children and had many physical problems to overcome, including difficulty with her speech, hearing and eyesight.

“I want to thank our attorney, Richard Stretch, and the whole legal team who helped us, including advocate Con Hartzenberg SC and advocate M. van Jaarsveld.

“I also want to thank Dr Chris Martin, our medical legal attorney who has emigrated to the UK,” she added.

The premier’s office had fought the case all the way to the Supreme Court of Appeals (SCA), but lost.

eThekwini Municipality had earlier conceded part liability for the damages in relation to the birth of the baby during the trial.

In March 2011, the SCA upheld the judgment of then KZN Deputy Judge President Phillip Levinsohn who found that both state institutions were liable for damages.

The Sonnys said that if the medical staff concerned had acted with the necessary professional skill and warned them in time of the risk of a Down’s Syndrome baby they would have terminated the pregnancy.

According to the evidence, Sonny, who was 37 and had a family history of diabetes and high blood pressure, was a “high-risk patient”.

Levinsohn said a doctor who did an initial scan at Addington Hospital in June 2002 ought to have given written instructions to Clare Estate clinic making it absolutely clear that Sonny had to return for a second scan urgently.

According to Sonny, she was never told anything might be wrong with the baby, although she was told to return in two weeks for another scan.

A nurse at the clinic subsequently advised her that everything was in order with her ultrasound and on her advice she did not go back.

The first indication that the baby might have Down’s Syndrome was in late October when she was almost full term.

The SCA said in its judgment that the masses of people who attend public health facilities were entitled to be treated the same way as patients who could afford private medical care.

“That means they should be fully informed and should be as involved as possible in their own treatment. This does not require a drain on public resources.

“The case is not about the availability of material resources. It is about a doctor communicating adequately with a patient,” the Supreme Court of Appeals said.

Ndabe Sibiya, a spokesperson for the KZN Premier’s office, said yesterday the office was glad the case had been concluded. He said the legal services department would send a full report to the premier.

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