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Mother Asked To Repay Compensation After Son With Spina Bifida Dies

May 16, 2013

Readers, I’ve covered many cases of families of disabled children being given compensation by the NHS over the time I’ve been blogging. I’ve heard of cases before that.

I wrote in detail on my personal views on compensation payments here. That post focuses on Cerebral Palsy but, of course, applies to all disabilities.

Whatever my personal, sentimental views on compensation, I have never denied that these payments are very well deserved by disabled children and their families.

Very sadly, sometimes, severely disabled children who are awarded compensation die before they reach adulthood.

Very sadly, this is what happened to Calum Mackay, who passed away aged six two years ago. He was born with spina bifida and was awarded £705,000 compensation after doctors failed to spot his disability.

Now, his mother Deborah, 33, has been told she has to pay back over half the amount- £375, 000- because the payout was to pay for Calum’s care until the age of 10, which he very sadly did not reach.

Deborah Mackay told the BBC she is “devastated” by the decision but has “learned to accept” it.

Bedford Hospital NHS Trust,which made the payout, says it has a “responsibility to manage the public purse.”

Ms Mackay says she “understands” why she has to return the money. But she fears becoming homeless, as she has to sell the home where she lived with Calum, which she adapted to meet his needs, to do so.

Ms Mackay says Calum “loved” the house, and that she has ” so many beautiful memories” of being in it with him.

Now, what I would like to know is- are families often asked to return compensation after death? I’ve never heard of a family being asked to do this before, and personally, I don’t think it should happen.

Of course, compensation is awarded for the care of the disabled child. But, particularly when the child is very young, the payment is made to the family. As far as I have always understood it, part of the reason families get compensation is to cover loss of earnings when they have to give up work to care for the child.

That’s why, even though a small part of me can understand the hospital’s point, particularly in these times of cuts to so many public services, I think Ms Mackay surely deserves to keep the money, and the home where her son lived.

I wish there was something that could be done to help her.

 

 

 

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. May 16, 2013 6:54 pm

    I am loving reading your blog and I also agree that Ms. Mackay should not have to give back the compensation money. Even in times of government cut backs, she has a right to keep it. Who is to say that if she had enough of the compensation left (doubtful, honestly) that she wouldn’t have put it into creating an organization which helps people with Spina Bifida in some way and of course she doesn’t deserve to become destitute after losing her child.

  2. May 17, 2013 12:17 am

    if the rule is to repay the money after a death they should have paid her yearly a percentage of the awarded sum from the beginning so in this case as their is no rule the family should not have to repay any of the awarded sum

    only a fool would pay out a lump sum in one go anyhow it’s the child’s money and it’s needs to be spent in a just and proper manor over the set period of time

    in this case the mother has done her best but you also need to guard against parents who may not do so and given a person who could be irresponsible such a large windfall is asking for trouble

  3. Rose permalink
    May 17, 2013 2:36 am

    Compensation is paid to the child. There are various ways it can be held for and on behalf of the child. There may be some separate compensation paid to a parent. This is the parent’s and not repayable. Often there is a lump sum eg for house purchase and adaptation. This would belong to the child, perhaps held in trust. A parent could be a trustee. Thereafter there may be annual payments, contingent on the continuing existence of the child. Legally a parent doesn’t receive the compensation, it is the child. Courts are usually very clear that noone else should, I quote, “benefit” from the payment of compensation, other than the person who received negligent treatment. My heart goes out to this woman, no one should have to go through what she and her son did.

  4. Clare permalink
    May 17, 2013 9:00 pm

    What a sad situation.

    In cases where the claim is against the NHS, I do think there’s a case to make for money being able to be repayable, in certain circumstances, although I would have two questions here.

    First, if Calum had lived longer than the 10 years suggested, would more money have been forthcoming to reflect this? Because if not, I don’t see how they can justify this.

    Second, in this case, did anyone ever explain to Calum’s mum before she made decisions about how to use the money she was given that this could happen? Because if not, then this is in my view indefensible.

    I also don’t see why the taxpayer couldn’t just wait. She shouldn’t have to have all these memories torn away.

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