Belfast Telegraph

Para's ex-wife can sue Army here over MS 'misdiagnosis'

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 (MoD) in Northern Ireland.

The High Court has 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, a procedure the woman underwent in October 1975.

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 MS, pointing instead to residua from a form of thrombosis.

Due to her medical condition the woman now depends on carers. 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 alleged negligent medical treatment while in the care of the MoD.

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 was not the appropriate forum.

MoD lawyers contended that the medical treatment and diagnosis were all carried out in England. Allowing the woman's appeal, Mr Justice Burgess said: "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."

Belfast Telegraph


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