Belfast Telegraph

Ex-soldier's wife to sue MoD in Northern Ireland over suspected medical misdiagnosis which led to sterilisation

By Alan Erwin

A soldier's ex-wife who underwent sterilisation for a suspected misdiagnosis of multiple sclerosis has won the right to sue the Ministry of Defence in Northern Ireland.

The High Court overturned an order that her medical negligence claim should be heard within the jurisdiction of England and Wales.

The woman, who is from Northern Ireland and now uses a wheelchair, is seeking damages over the treatment when married to a member of the Parachute Regiment four decades ago.

In 1972, while pregnant and visiting her parents in Belfast, she was taken to the military wing of Musgrave Park Hospital after experiencing weakness down her left side.

She was transferred to Cambridge Military Hospital in Aldershot the following month.

Despite the absence of some records, the court heard a diagnosis of MS was made at the English hospital in early 1973.

She was then put on a course of treatment and discharged six weeks later.

But with medical authorities continuing with the diagnosis of severe MS, a consultant neurologist strongly recommended sterilisation.

In October 1975 the woman underwent that procedure at the Military Hospital in Aldershot.

More than 30 years later she was examined by another consultant neurologist who formed the view it was more likely that she had a vascular event than MS. 

An MRI scan found no evidence of the disease, pointing instead to residua from a form of thrombosis.

Due to her medical condition the woman now depends on carers who come to her home three times a day.

She requires help washing and dressing, getting in and out of bed, using the bathroom and preparing meals.

In 2009 she separated from her husband and left England to return to live in Northern Ireland.

Three years later her legal team commenced proceedings at the High Court in Belfast for for alleged negligent medical treatment while in the care of the Ministry of Defence.

The lawsuit was stayed in October 2015 on the basis that the action should be brought before the courts of England and Wales.

She appealed that order, arguing that the defendants had failed to establish Northern Ireland is not the appropriate forum.

Lawyers for the MoD contended that the medical treatment and both diagnosis were all carried out in England.

Allowing the woman's appeal, Mr Justice Burgess removed the stay on proceedings in Northern Ireland on Monday.

He ruled that the Northern Irish forum was no less appropriate to hear a case.

The judge also pointed out: "There is a potentially greater inconvenience to be caused to the plaintiff being required to attend in England rather than other witnesses coming to Northern Ireland  - if indeed their attendance in Northern Ireland is required."

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