Birth trauma: Life expectancy evidence

Robshaw v United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust [2015] EWHC 923 (QB) is of interest for its detailed consideration of life expectancy evidence in a birth trauma claim, including evidence which relied in part on data published by Professor David Strauss & others.

At [41] – [42] the trial judge referred to updated data in 2008 and 2014:

In an endeavour not to extend unduly what is necessarily a lengthy judgment, I would respectfully adopt and rely upon the full and detailed description of the background to the Strauss data and its development set out in Whiten at [19]-[38]. It has not been questioned in this case and, in my view, it sets out clearly the history up to and including what is generally referred to as “the 2008 paper” (i.e. Strauss DJ, Brooks J, Rosenbloom L, Shavelle RM. ‘Life expectancy in cerebral palsy: an update’: Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology 2008; 50: 487-493). Dr Ferrie and Dr Rosenbloom took the 2008 paper as the relevant starting point to apply to this case at their meeting in July 2014.

The judgment in Whiten was given in August 2011. There has been a further contribution to the learning on this topic by the same authors with the addition of Linh Tran and Yvonne Wu in the form of articles published in 2014 in Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology entitled ‘Recent trends in cerebral palsy survival’. Part 1 related to “period and cohort effects” and Part 2 to “individual survival prognosis”. The articles were accepted for publication on 15 April 2014 and were apparently published online subsequently although Dr Rosenbloom was unable to remember precisely when that was. I mention this only because it is very unfortunate that reference to the new study and its potential relevance to this case did not feature at the meeting between Dr Ferrie and Dr Rosenbloom on 6 July 2014 although publication must have been imminent if it had not taken place already.

A discussion of the evidence as to tube feeding followed, which was relevant to the lifespan estimate issue.

Other quantum issues were analysed in the judgment such as housing and technology needs.

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