EPILEPSY DRUG WRONGLY PRESCRIBED TO PREGNANT WOMAN
Pregnancy can be risky but when the woman carrying the baby is an epileptic, the risks can be huge. A recent case saw the High Court award substantial damages to two brothers, aged thirteen and nine, who suffered from autism brought about by the side effects of an epileptic drug prescribed for their mother by her neurologist both before and during her pregnancy.
Their mother had developed epilepsy at the age of twelve and as the disease progressed, her family had referred her to a consultant neurologist, Dr. Raymond Murphy, who she continued to see for treatment from the age of twenty. During a fourteen-year period of seeing Dr. Murphy, she was mostly prescribed the drug Epilim along with some other drugs on occasions.
It was stated in evidence that Dr. Murphy had warned her that if she became pregnant, there was a risk of the fetus developing Spina Bifida but this could be controlled by taking other medication. He did not warn her of the autism risks associated with Epilim which he continued to prescribe. She had her first son, Jack, in 2007 and her second boy, Tom, the following year in 2008, but Dr. Murphy continued to prescribe Epilim despite the concerns other medical professionals had as to its side effects in pregnancy.
Her son, Jack, was unfortunately diagnosed with autism at the age of three and suffered from marked speech and language difficulties while her other son, Tom, was also diagnosed with autism although a less severe variety than his older brother.
The mother’s counsel outlined to the High Court that if she had been properly warned about the known risks of autism from taking Epilim while pregnant, she would have opted for a completely different treatment. The boys had failed several developmental tests and would require continuous support and therapy from their parents and health workers into the future.
Liability was conceded by Dr. Murphy’s side and the court approved a settlement on their behalf for €15 million Euro by way of staged payments to the two boys and their parents.
Jack Clarke & Tom Clarke (suing by their mother Elizabeth Clarke) v Dr. Raymond Murphy  IEHC.