Jones v Taunton And Somerset NHS Foundation Trust [2019] EWHC 1408 (QB) (10 June 2019)

C is aged 23 years, having been born on 5 February 1996. His claim is based on an allegation of brain injury caused by negligence in his mother’s antenatal care. The alleged negligence concerns the administration to C’s mother of Nifedipine during an admission on 25/26 November 1995 when she was just short of 31 weeks pregnant. [1]

Nifedipine is a tocolytic drug, that is to say its purpose is to suppress or postpone pre-term labour. C’s case is that it was negligent to administer Nifedipine. This is denied by D. [2]

C alleges that:

i) his mother was not in preterm labour;

ii) Nifedipine should only have been administered as part of a clinical trial and the safety of the drug was not confirmed;

iii) the drug was administered contrary to the Defendant’s own protocol. [4]

(1) It was reasonable for D to diagnose, as she did, that [mother] was in threatened preterm labour. It was therefore reasonable to prescribe tocolysis

(2) There was no breach of duty in prescribing Nifedipine in 1995

(3) Failure to set up intravenous infusion prior to administration of Nifedipine was not a breach of duty

(4) The administration of a second dose of Nifedipine was not a breach of duty. [157]

C has not proved any breach of duty on the part of D and the claim must therefore fail. [158]

Note: at paragraph 159 “…If a doctor who would have been held liable in 1995 for breach of duty in prescribing a drug whose use was not accepted as appropriate by a responsible body of practitioners is subsequently vindicated, such that a doctor prescribing the same drug in 2002 would not be in breach of duty because of changes of opinion in the profession, should the 1995 doctor be held to be negligent in a trial taking place after 2002?…” – isn’t this similar to the situation pertaining to prophylactic ABx in patients with valve lesions and dental treatment – the practice changed a few years ago.