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Friday, 21 January, 2000, 12:23 GMT
Infertile woman loses court claim

Miss Briody said she was 'devastated' by the ruling

A woman left infertile by a hospital blunder faces a huge costs bill after a judge refused to award her money to pay for a surrogate child.

Margaret Briody, 46, of Billinge, near St Helens, said she was "devastated" by the High Court ruling.

I had the most desperate feelings of despair and misery over a very long period
Margaret Briody
She wanted 400,000 damages, the cost of implanting her own fertilised eggs in a surrogate mother in the US.

Mrs Justice Ebsworth did award her 80,000 damages for the hospital negligence, which happened 26 years ago.

However, as the award falls short of an out-of-court settlement offered by the health authority, Miss Briody is now liable for the other side's costs - which could be more than the money awarded.

Even Miss Briody's own expert witness, Professor Ian Craft, estimated that the chances of a successful surrogate pregnancy using her eggs were "about 1%".

Lord Winston, the fertility expert based at Imperial College London said the chances were "negligible".

'Lack of fulfilment'

Richard Hone QC, representing her, had told the court that she wanted damages for the "disappointment, distress and lack of fulfilment" in her life.

St Helens and Knowsley Health Authority was found to have been negligent in 1998 after two pregnancies in the 1970s ended in stillbirths and emergency hysterotomies.

The reason for this High Court hearing was simply to decide whether the assessment of damages should include Miss Briody's future chances of motherhood, however slim.

After the ruling, Miss Briody said that she planned to take the case to the Court of Appeal.

"It is the only route open to me," she said.

She had told the judge: "Before the hysterectomy I was confident and outgoing and liked to mix with people. After it I avoided company, I felt isolated and frightened by it.

"I had the most desperate feelings of despair and misery over a very long period.

"I avoided going to the doctor because I didn't want anyone to know. I was embarrassed and ashamed because I had been rendered infertile."

In the ruling, Mrs Justice Ebsworth accepted that Miss Briody had been made infertile because of medical negligence, and had suffered "psychiatric injury" as a result.

However, she found that her chances of motherhood were too low, and as a commercial agency was the only option open to her, it would be unacceptable in this country.

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See also:
06 Dec 99 |  Health
Woman demands health authority pays for surrogacy
20 Dec 99 |  Health
Fight for dead man's sperm
20 Dec 99 |  Health
Sperm and eggs: the legal background
15 Dec 99 |  Health
Court fight over test-tube ban
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