A 13-year-old boy with autism is suing his neurologist. He claims that his mother failed to inform him about the possible dangers that epilepsy medication during pregnancy could present to her foetus.
It is claimed that if Jack Clarke’s mother, Elizabeth Elliot Clarke, had been warned about the known risks of autism from taking Epilim, she would have opted for alternative treatment.
High Court proceedings have revealed that Jack was diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders and has global developmental delay falling within moderate range.
Jack, of Whitechurch Court Rathfarnham in Dublin is suing consultant neurologist Dr Raymond Murphy of Charlemont Hospital in Dublin. They are denied.
A second case has been brought by Jack’s younger brother, Tom, who was born in 2013, and whose autism diagnosis is less severe. This case will not proceed until liability has been accepted.
Opening Jack’s case on Tuesday, Aongus O’Brolchain SC, instructed by Ciara McPhillips, partner in the Michael Boylan law firm, said Ms Elliot Clarke developed epilepsy at the age of 12 and became a patient of Dr Murphy at the age of 20 in 1999.
She was his patient for 14 years and was occasionally prescribed Epilim along with other drugs.
Counsel stated that her doctor had advised her in 2000 that she was at risk of developing spina bifurca within 28 days of becoming pregnant. However, that risk was low and that she should take folic acid to reduce it.
Hanna was her first child. She expressed concern to Dr Murphy during her pregnancy. He continued to prescribe Epilim, even though this was after the 28-day time period.
Jack continued to give the drug during her pregnancy with Jack, even after she fell pregnant in 2008.
The defendant allegedly did not discuss the potential risks of continuing to take Epilim. It is claimed that Dr Murphy failed to discuss the possible neurodevelopmental impairments that could result from ingesting Epilim.
Mr O’Brolchain said Ms Elliot Clarke was never told about any other physical or mental issue associated with the drug, even though autism and Asperger’s Syndrome risks were known at the time and discussed in medical literature.
Counsel advised Jack that he was diagnosed with Autism at three years of age and has many developmental delays as well as speech and language difficulties.
“He is extraordinarily difficult to take care of and there is no doubt he will require care for the rest of his life,” counsel said.
There was a problem with the Murphy side’s request to amend its defense, which Clarke opposed.
Justice Paul Coffey granted the amendment, but said that it was subject to Clarke’s being allowed to raise prejudice later in this case.
The case continues.
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