KUALA LUMPUR: The High Court here has awarded more than RM8 million to a woman and her four-year-old daughter for medical negligence.
The girl suffered severe and irreversible brain damage during birth at a government hospital.
In the grounds of judgment issued on April 17 this year, judicial commissioner Roz Mawar Rozain said she made the decision after the government confirmed admission of liability.
The woman, who had a high-risk obstetric history, and her daughter had sued the government and eight other defendants, comprising medical officers and staff, for medical negligence in November 2020.
On Jan 28, 2022, the High Court recorded a consent judgment that confirmed the admission of liability by the government, with the plaintiffs withdrawing the suit against other defendants with no order as to costs.
Roz Mawar awarded both plaintiffs RM209,000 for special damages and general damages of RM500,000 to the child and RM114,000 to the mother.
“Both the plaintiffs are awarded aggravated damages in the sum of RM350,000. For future general damages, the child is awarded a total of RM6.95 million for 40 years.
“This court finds that a reasonable amount because, on average, her care amounts to RM174,000 a year.
“The court also orders RM215,000 for costs,” she said.
In her judgment, Roz Mawar said it was indeed an expensive lesson for the government to learn, but no amount of money could repair the damage done to the first plaintiff.
“She will never have a taste of any decent normal living. The pain and suffering also extends to the mother and the rest of her family.
“The sum awarded may, at first instance, look like a fortune, but it would ensure some convenience for her survival,” she said.
According to Roz Mawar, this was a tragic case where the child suffered severe and irreversible brain damage at birth on March 17, 2019 at a government hospital.
The mother, who had a high-risk obstetric history, was initially to undergo an emergency Caesarean section on March 18, 2019, to give birth.
“By 8pm on March 17, 2019, the child in utero showed signs and symptoms of bradycardia (heart beat becomes slower). Despite detecting that, a delayed decision was made at 9.20pm for the mother to undergo an emergency Caesarean.
“Nonetheless, further delay followed before the child was delivered at 10.14pm. It was noted at birth that the child suffered hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy and severe brain damage.
“The second plaintiff suffered an exacerbation of her major depressive disorder.
“Her child suffers from spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy secondary to hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy, with a developmental milestone of less than three months old as a result of negligence and delay — instead of (the staff) acting promptly and according to the accepted procedures at the hospital,” she said.
In deciding the value of the award, Roz Mawar said both the mother and her husband are the main carers for the child.
“In addition to caring for the child, the mother and her husband also care for his nine-year-old son and their seven-year-old daughter, who was born with a congenital condition causing lung fibrosis.
“The husband is a technician who has been out of work as a result of a slipped disc.
“The child, who is now four years old, has not grown normally and will not be normal. She needs around-the-clock care as she is unable to attend to her bodily functions herself.
“She requires help and care with feeding, bathing, cleaning up after herself, and wiping her saliva. Her oral hygiene needs to be taken care of to avoid infection.
“The child has weak muscles; she is unable to sit or stand on her own. She is unable to communicate and does not show any comprehension of her surroundings.
“According to the mother, the child also does not cry. She needs to be fed through a tube every three hours,” she said in her 29-page judgment.
Meanwhile, the mother and daughter’s counsel, Karthi Kanthabalan, confirmed the decision and said the government had appealed the decision.