25 January 2000
ByAppeared in BioNews 042
A ruling in the High Court has not allowed Patricia Briody to receive damages to pay for a surrogate child. Patricia Briody was left infertile by the clinical negligence of a St Helens and Knowsley Health Authority hospital 26 years ago, when two pregnancies ended in stillborn children and an emergency hysterectomy.
Miss Briody was claiming damages on the basis of the 'disappointment, distress and lack of fulfilment in her life' and for the cost of implanting her own fertilised eggs in a surrogate mother in the US, the only way she believed she would be able to have a child of her own. For this she was claiming £400,000 compensation.
Mrs Justice Ebsworth awarded Miss Briody £80,000 damages for the pain and suffering caused by the negligence, but rejected her surrogacy claim on the basis that her chances of motherhood were statistically too low. This was a fact heard in evidence given by Professor Ian Craft, Miss Briody's own expert witness, who estimated that the chances of a successful pregnancy using her own eggs were only 'about 1 percent'. Lord Winston for the Health Authority said her chances were 'negligible'. The judge said that it would not be reasonable to 'provide a legal remedy doomed to almost inevitable failure' but also stated that she was not ruling out the cost of surrogacy forming the basis for a compensation claim in future negligence cases if there was a greater chance of success.
It was also noted that the Californian surrogacy service that Miss Briody planned to use was against UK law. Because the amount awarded does not exceed the £110,000 pre-trial settlement offered by the Health Authority, Miss Briody is now liable for their legal costs as well as her own. The costs are expected to exceed the total amount of damages awarded.