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Sunday, 21 December 2014

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Cumbrian woman pledges to fight on for daughter despite legal aid setback

A Cumbrian mum has vowed to fight on for compensation for her disabled daughter despite legal aid being withdrawn from a landmark court case.

Samantha Scott photo
Samantha Scott and daughter Faith

Samantha Scott, of Low Hesket, believes a drug she took for epilepsy during pregnancy has left her seven-year-old daughter with a catalogue of severe health problems.

Seven-year-old Faith was born with a cleft palate, a hole in her heart and will need constant care for the rest of her life.

Faith, a pupil at James Rennie School and Armathwaite Primary, is one of more than 200 children whose parents are involved in a fight for compensation from drug firm Sanofi-aventis.

Lawyers Irwin Mitchell say the case has taken six years to prepare at a cost of £3.2m – within the £4m Legal Services Commission budget – and a further £750,000 was required to enable it to proceed to trial.

But the Government has decided to pull further public funding just weeks before the London high court hearing was due to start.

Samantha, 31, is devastated. “This is taking away childrens’ rights to defend themselves,” she told the News & Star. “I am so shocked.

“Any money that came from this would be Faith’s for anything she needed in the future – she will never lead an independent life.”

Samantha claims she was told by doctors it was safe to become pregnant while taking Epilim (sodium valproate).

“I was told I was fine because there was no data on the drugs to say they would cause harm or any birth defects.

“You trust doctors have the knowledge. But they did not have that knowledge from the drugs company.”

She became pregnant with twins. But after 12 weeks, she lost one of the babies.

Then, three weeks before Faith was due, doctors induced the birth as she had stopped growing in Samantha’s womb.

“I thought it was just because she was a twin,” said Samantha.

“But when she was born they ran with her to the special care baby unit where we stayed for the next month.”

Faith was diagnosed with foetal anti-convulsant syndrome.

As Faith had to be painstakingly hand fed every two hours at first, Samantha collapsed in the hospital with an infection as she was so exhausted.

The youngster has since had four operations, including one on her hips and one to remove an extra digits from each hand. She may need more surgery in the future, has problems with speech and cannot walk unaided.

“I called her Faith, because that is what I needed when she was born,” said her mum.

Samantha has put her life on hold to care for her daughter – although she hopes to study at university next year.

A single mum, she says her relationship with her 14-year-old son has suffered because of the time she has spent visiting hospitals with Faith.

“It took me away from him when he was younger. She was in intensive care in Newcastle and has had pneumonia.

“She is in and out of the Cumberland Infirmary and has a chest infection about every month. Because her immune system is low, she picks up everything.

“It is heartbreaking sometimes.

“But me and Faith are very close. I love her, she’s a lovely personality.”

The litigation involves 170 children over the age of eight and would have initially focused on 10 test cases.

There are around a further 80 children under the age of eight waiting for the outcome of these cases before proceeding – Faith is one of this second group.

The families allege Epilim caused a range of birth defects and that there were inadequate warnings about the possible harm.

The firm has denied the claims, saying it has always provided appropriate precautions and warnings on the risks associated with possible side-effects of the medicine.

The case is adjourned until December 20 for the families to consider whether to apply for a judicial review of the LSC’s decision before discontinuing the action.

A spokeswoman for Sanofi-aventis said: “We have sympathy for the claimants but we have always believed that their case would be unsuccessful.

“Sanofi-aventis has always provided appropriate precautions and warnings on the risks.”

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