At 10 years old, Donette Thompson cannot walk or talk. She eats her meals through a tube and gets around in a wheelchair.
“She talks to me in other ways,” says her mother Norene Ebanks (formerly Thompson). “She licks her lips for food, she groans when she wants to have something, she cries when she is in pain.
“She’s a strong child, she has been through more than most adults could cope with but she keeps on going. She’s my little Duracell bunny.”
Donette, who was born with cerebral palsy as a result of what her mother claims was negligent management of her labor, will need a lifetime of care.
The Health Services Authority has denied that the child’s disabilities are the result of its negligence. Ms. Ebanks has been fighting through the courts for compensation.
“I just want a better future for my child,” said Ms. Ebanks, who would like to be able to afford a mobility vehicle for her daughter or adaptations to her West Bay home to make it easier for her to get around.
A judge’s ruling Friday, that Section 12 of the Health Services Authority Law exempts the authority from lawsuits in negligence cases, ended that hope for now. Ms. Ebanks’s lawyers at Samson and McGrath are now fighting to have that part of the law declared unconstitutional.
Ms. Ebanks said she was devastated by Friday’s ruling and could not understand why she was not able to seek compensation.
“It is like the law is on their side and there is no one we can go to for help,” she said. “This doesn’t happen in the U.K., why does it happen here?
“It is not just me and my child, it affects the whole of the Cayman Islands. There are a lot of people that don’t even know about Section 12. Things can happen and you can’t sue.”
Donette has a regular caregiver and gets physiotherapy once a week. She likes to play games and listen to the radio, but trips to the beach or the movies are a challenge.
“We try to get the best for her and give her the best care we can,” says Ms. Ebanks, who has two other children.
“It is not the life we wanted, but God has given me energy and strength. We are coping with it, we have to cope.” Ms. Ebanks remains hopeful that the courts will rule that Section 12 is incompatible with the Bill of Rights.
“I am also hoping the government will look at this and change the law. Doctors have insurance. Who can patients turn to if there is negligence? Who can we count on if the law is against us?”
The ruling on Section 12 and the continuing legal challenge could have implications for a number of other cases, including for the family of Kate Clayton, a British dive industry worker who died last year as the result of a failed tracheotomy procedure at the Cayman Islands Hospital, according to a U.K. coroner’s ruling.