On 4 April 2014, the District Court of South Australia found that a general practitioner who failed to diagnose a patient’s pregnancy until 33 weeks (at which point the patient was unable to terminate) had breached her duty of care.

The patient, and plaintiff in the proceedings, gave birth to a child with Down syndrome at age 48.  The patient had initially consulted the practitioner complaining of tiredness, breathing difficulties and irregular vaginal bleeding.  The practitioner argued that she exercised due care and skill appropriate to her position in her examination, advice, treatment and supervision of the patient.  The practitioner argued further, in the alternative, that the patient was guilty of contributory negligence for, among other things, failing to disclose that she had not had a period for several months.

However, the Court determined that the practitioner should have obtained a detailed medical history, carried out further examinations and tests and arranged for a follow-up consultation.  The Court held that the patient was entitled to damages for losses sustained as a result of the practitioner’s negligence.  The argument of contributory negligence also failed.

To view the case, click here.