Sri Lankan refugee couple is set for multi-million-pound NHS payout

Sri Lankan refugee couple are set for multi-million-pound NHS payout after their baby suffered irreversible brain damage at birth because midwives couldn’t understand them

  • Sinthiya Rajatheepan was not properly instructed on how to feed her new baby
  • Her son Nilujan, eight, suffered  devastating brain damage from malnutrition 
  • The High Court  ruled midwives at King George’s hospital failed the baby
  • Judges will determine the level of compensation due during a later hearing 

Catastrophic injuries suffered by a baby boy were the direct result of his refugee mother’s poor grasp of English, a top judge has ruled.

And now the eight-year-old is in line for multi-million-pound NHS compensation because midwives were negligent in failing to tackle the language barrier.

Judge Martin McKenna said medics at King George’s Hospital, London, ended up ‘effectively ignoring’ Sinthiya Rajatheepan’s concerns about her crying baby.

Because she only knew a few basic words of English, she was never given proper instructions about how to feed her son, Nilujan.

Mother and baby were discharged home too early and, due to poor feeding, Nilujan suffered irreversible brain damage, the judge added.

Mrs Rajatheepan, 29, and her husband Sivarajah, came to Britain from their native Sri Lanka as refugees in 2008.

Aged just 21 when she gave birth to her baby on July 16, 2009, she spoke onlyTamil fluently and had ‘a minimal command of English’.

Naturally timid and inexperienced, she tended to ‘simply smile’ when she caught the eye of midwives on the busy maternity ward.

The judge said she was ‘certainly unable to understand anything but the simplest of instructions’ and only when accompanied by hand gestures.

When Nilujan was delivered by Caesarean, his condition at first appeared good and ‘no concerns’ were raised.

Mother and baby were discharged home on July 18 but, when a community midwife visited the following day, Nilujan was ‘pale and lethargic’.

He had not been fed for 12 to 15 hours and all his reserves of energy had been used up, said the judge.

He was rushed back to the hospital where he was ‘floppy’ and suffered seizures.

And the judge said it was agreed that the brain damage he suffered was ’caused as a result of poor feeding’.

Nilujan suffers from cerebral palsy and is severely physically and mentally disabled as result, London’s High Court heard.

Midwives were adamant that they were well used to patients with language difficulties and had properly instructed Mrs Rajatheepan how to feed her baby.

But the judge said: ‘The overwhelming weight of the evidence is that Mrs Rajatheepan had very little ability with the English language.

‘She was certainly unable to understand anything but the simplest of instructions and only then when accompanied with appropriate hand gestures.’

He added: ‘The sad reality is that Mrs Rajatheepan did not, in fact, ever get any instruction on how to feed properly.

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