A showjumping star with spina bifida is suing a GP claiming she should never have been born because the doctor allegedly failed to tell her mother to take a crucial supplement that could have warded off the condition.
Evie Toombes, 20, wants millions in damages from Dr Philip Mitchell, claiming that he did not advise her mother Caroline Toombes to take folic acid, leading to the child being ‘born in a damaged state’.
Evie, from Skegness, Lincolnshire, claims that if Dr Mitchell told Caroline that she had to take the supplements to minimise the risk of spina bifida affecting her baby, she would have delayed getting pregnant until she had done so.
Caroline, 50, had gone to see Dr Mitchell in February 2001, but despite discussing folic acid during the consultation, she claims she was not told of its importance in spina bifida prevention.
Dr Mitchell, who at the time was working at the Hawthorn Medical Practice in Skegness, ‘comprehensively denies’ liability, claiming he gave Caroline ‘reasonable advice’.
Evie, who has forged a career in showjumping and met the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in 2018 when she won the Inspiration Young Person Award at a Wellchild charity event, is now bringing a claim at the High Court in London over her own ‘wrongful conception and birth’.
She claims that, were it not for the ‘negligence’ of the doctor, she would never have been conceived, and ‘her damage and disability are due to this’.
Her barrister Susan Rodway QC said that if Caroline had put off getting pregnant, she would have had a ‘normal, healthy’ baby – but one who was a ‘genetically different person’ to Evie.
Medics routinely advise prospective mothers of the benefits of taking folic acid supplements before conceiving and throughout the first 12 weeks of their pregnancy to ward off the risk of spina bifida.
The court heard that 50-year-old Caroline Toombes – who is also a keen horsewoman – went to see Dr Mitchell to discuss her plans to have a first baby in February 2001.
‘This was a very precious decision to start a family, because she herself had lost her parents when she was young,’ her daughter’s barrister Mrs Rodway told the judge.
‘They had been refraining from sexual intercourse until after they had received advice at this consultation.’
But despite discussing folic acid during the consultation, Caroline claims that she was not told by Dr Mitchell of its importance in spina bifida prevention.
‘He told me it was not necessary,’ she told the judge. ‘I was advised that if I had a good diet previously, I would not have to take folic acid.’
Mrs Rodway said that, had Caroline been properly advised by Dr Mitchell, she would not have gone on to conceive as quickly as she did.
She would have paused her pregnancy plans, started a course of folic acid treatment and then attempted to conceive, she claims.
‘It is her evidence she would have read up on it and wouldn’t have attempted to become pregnant until she was satisfied that she had protected herself as much as possible,’ she said.
After her birth in November 2001, Evie was diagnosed with a lipomylomeningocoele (LMM), a form of neural tube defect to the spine leading to permanent disability.
Her mobility is said to be ‘very limited’ and she will depend more and more on a wheelchair as she grows older, while she also suffers with bowel and bladder issues, the court heard.
She has previously spoken about her issues on ITV show ‘Hidden Disabilities: What’s The Truth?’