She was the case study for changing the law to restore the rights of patients who believe they are victims of medical errors to claim compensation. But Donette Thompson may never benefit from the changes she inspired.
The case of the 10-year-old, who was born with cerebral palsy as a result of what her mother believes was the negligent management of her labor, was the catalyst for Government’s decision to get rid of Section 12 of the Health Services Authority Law, which protects the hospital and its staff from being sued.
The change in the law, removing immunity from lawsuits in medical negligence cases, is not being applied retroactively however, meaning Donette’s mother, Norene Ebanks is still in the same boat, unable to sue and struggling to fund her daughter’s care.
As her lawyers seek to find a legal solution, the community has rallied to her aid. Kent McTaggart, a businessman who also has a son with special needs, launched a fundraising campaign last week to help pay for some of her expenses.
He called on Cayman’s politicians and wealthy business owners to step up and help raise a six-figure sum for Ms. Ebanks.
“It was her case that lifted the lid on this issue. She was a case study for fixing the law and it has been fixed for everyone except her.
“Norene does everything she can for her daughter. She fights every day and she still puts on a smile. As a special needs parent I know how hard it is. It hit me hard that nothing was being done for her.
“I don’t care where the money comes from; they need to be taken care of,” he said.
Ms. Ebanks said she had been struggling to pay for Donette’s care since she was born. She says she tried to bring a lawsuit against the Health Services Authority in an effort to secure a “better future” for her child.
But the lawsuit was barred after a judge ruled Section 12 of the HSA Law prevented compensation claims against hospital staff except in cases where bad faith could be proved. Publicity around the case sparked a call to arms that ultimately led to a change in the law. While those changes will make a difference for future patients who are the victims of medical errors, they will not make a difference for Donette, even if it were definitively determined – and it has yet to be – that there was indeed medical error involved in her case.
“I am happy for the law to be changed, because it benefits the rest of the Cayman Islands from now on, but I am upset for Donette,” said Ms. Ebanks.
“She was the whole reason this went to the Legislative Assembly in the first place. They even brought her name up in the meeting, but not even a soul has called since and asked how she is, if she is still alive.
“I am still upset, it hurts every time I think about it,” she said.
Ms. Ebanks would like to afford a mobility vehicle for her daughter and adaptations to her West Bay home to make it easier for her to get around.
Mr. McTaggart said he immediately had a strong response to his Facebook campaign, though most of the pledges came from people with little to give who were offering what help they could.
He said he hoped some of the community’s wealthiest citizens would dig deep and help raise a significant sum that could make a real difference in the child’s life.
Ms. Ebanks said she was grateful for the support.
“It brought tears to my eyes when I saw it. I am really happy that someone is out there who really knows what’s going on and is trying to help,” she said.
James Kennedy, of Samson and McGrath, said the law firm had not given up hope of getting compensation for Ms. Thompson through the courts. He said further hearings were scheduled in the case and an appeal was possible.
A gofundme page has recently been set up to take donations online. Anyone who wants to assist can contact Mr. McTaggart via text or whatsapp on 525-2992.