How mom won R23m for medical negligence

Lawyers suing the government for a medical negligence case of a child born with cerebral palsy had to rope in 11 doctors, an architect and the services of an American life-expectancy expert to secure a R23-million payout.

Last week, Pretoria's North Gauteng High Court awarded Phetogo Mabalane's mom R23399150 for damages her child suffered when she gave birth to him at Nelspruit's Rob Ferreira Hospital in May 2010.

The mother, Thandeka Sedibe, said the Mpumalanga hospital staff were negligent and delayed performing a C-section on her, putting her baby's health at risk.

She had arrived at 7am and the C-section was only performed just before 2am the next day.

The baby was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and epilepsy and had developed other health complications such as impaired vision and can not stand or eat by himself.

The draft order shows that Sedibe's lawyer Slungu Thobela used 11 doctors, who included speech therapists, ophthalmologists, dieticians and audiologists.

Other experts such as an architect, educational and industrial psychologist were also called but it was the report by US-based life-expectancy expert Professor David Strauss that was crucial, said Thobela.

Strauss, who was paid more than R100000 for the report, is a professor emeritus at the University of California and is also the director of Life Expectancy Project, an international organisation.

In his 21-page report to the court, Strauss said Phetogo had a life expectancy of 44.9 years, which was severely reduced because of his epilepsy, cerebral palsy, vision impairment and low weight.

"His limited hand use, dependancy on others for activities of daily living are strongly adverse factors of his life expectancy," wrote Strauss.

He based his conclusion on medical reports from other doctors who had seen Phetogo in SA between 2014 and 2016.

"His report was key because when the actuaries count future losses or needs they consider the amount of years that person will live," Thobela said.

He added that after consulting with a dietician, they had to put the boy on the recommended diet, which cost them a lot of money.

"He quickly gained some weight and we have been maintaining him since then. We also took that information to court and experts agreed with us," he said.

An architect was called to assess Phetogo's home and what adjustments would be needed for his comfort.

Sedibe, 27, said the money would go a long way to covering for her son's medical check-ups, physiotherapy and school fees.

Phetogo was rejected at a school for disabled children last year because he was still using nappies.

"He will have a trained nanny and that will give me time to go back to school to finish my Grade 12," said Sedibe.