QC wins landmark case for Skegness para-showjumper, 20, with spina bifida, who is suing her mother's doctor

A QC has won a landmark case against the doctor who advised the mother of a Skegness para-showjumper with a rare form of spina bifida.

Evie pictured with her mum, Caroline.

Evie Toombes, 20, of Skegness, brought the claim, to the High Court in London, alleging Dr Philip Mitchell negligently failed to advise her mother, Caroline Toombes, to increase her intake of folic acid.

The ground-breaking ruling means that a healthcare professional can now be found liable for negligent pre-conception advice which results in the birth of a child with a serious health condition.

Susan Rodway QC was instructed by Tim Spring of Moore Barlow in the case of Toombes v Mitchell, in which Her Honour Judge Coe QC today handed down judgment in favour of the claimant.

Evie meeting Prince Harry and Meghan Markle alongside her brother Rocco after winning an Inspirational Child award.

In February 2001, Evie's mother attended D. Mitchell at the Hawthorn Medical Practice in Skegness specifically to ask his advice as to the steps she should take before trying to become pregnant.

In particular, Mrs Toombes was concerned about waiting for some time after stopping the contraceptive pill.

She had also heard mention of folic acid and raised this specifically with the doctor.

According to an article on the Essex Chambers website, Dr Mitchell had no independent recollection of the consultation and was forced to rely upon his contemporaneous note and his ‘standard practice’.

It states: "His note was woefully inadequate with the only reference to folic acid being ‘folate if desired’.

"The court accepted Mrs Toombes recollection that Dr Mitchell did not tell her about the relationship between folic acid supplements and the prevention of spina bifida.

"He told her that if she had a good diet folic acid supplements were ‘not necessary’ and that she should go away and have ‘lots of sex’.

"Nine months later the Claimant was born with a form of spina bifida.

"The inadequacy of the note was clearly important. The court rejected Dr Mitchell’s evidence that he provided advice in accordance with the recommendations at the time ( all of which referred to folic acid supplements taken before becoming pregnant) and found that had proper advice been provided the Claimant’s mother would have delayed conception for about a month whilst taking the supplement.

"This would have led to a later conception of a normal, healthy child.

"The unique legal issue in the case was whether the Claimant had a cause of action for being born in her damaged state.

"The alternative was not based upon an argument that she should have been terminated and hence avoided issues of ‘wrongful life’ and ‘wrongful birth’. In the former, the courts have consistently turned their face against such an action as repugnant to the law. In the latter, the claim has to be brought by parents of the injured child."

The claim now proceeds to the assessment of damages for the claimant’s injuries, which will be used to fund the ongoing expenses of living with spina bifida.

In spite of her disability, Evie she has continued to compete in showjumping, nationally and internationally, she educates children about invisible illnesses and works at Nottingham University.

The former Skegness Standard Champion has even written a children's book about living with disability - winning her the Inspiration Young Person Award at a Wellchild charity event in 2018. when she met the Duke of Sussex and Megan Markle.

According to her own website, evietoombespararider, Evie describes her motto in life as: 'Find a way, not an excuse.'

She writes: 'I’m Evie Toombes, you may know me best for my background in para showjumping with my horse Daisy, or for my motto of #FindAWayNotAnExcuse, blog and work raising awareness for invisible illnesses.

"I was born with a form of Spina Bifida, which affects the nerves to my legs, bladder and bowel, but having a passion in life gives me purpose and direction.

"When I began sharing my journey and writing blogs I never imagined how many people were in the same situation, feeling alone yet embarrassed- until I began receiving messages telling me how much something I’d written had helped them.

"Pretty soon I realised that sharing all the things I was so keen to hide could have a positive impact and help towards a shift in perceptions of chronic illnesses.

"I am so keen to continue my mission and reach as many people as possible with my message of ‘Find A Way Not An Excuse’, and so far the support and help from people who have truly believed in me and my mission has made this possible."

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