Evie Toombs has forged a career in national and international showjumping.
Evie Toombes, 20, who has spina bifida and sometimes spends 24 hours a day connected to tubes, has forged a career in national and international showjumping – competing against disabled and able-bodied riders.
Now, in a “wrongful conception” damages claim, she is suing her mum’s doctor over his alleged failure to advise her to take vital supplements before getting pregnant.
Evie claims that had Dr Philip Mitchell told her mum Caroline Toombes that she needed to take folic acid to minimise the risk of spina bifida affecting her baby, she would have put off getting pregnant until she had done so.
As a result Evie would never have been born.
Her barrister, Susan Rodway QC, told Judge Rosalind Coe QC that Evie, from Skegness, is suing for “having been born in a damaged state” and that she wants millions in damages to cover the increased cost of living a disabled life.
Evie sometimes spends 24 hours a day connected to tubes.
But Dr Mitchell, who at the time was working at the Hawthorn Medical Practice in the town, “comprehensively denies” liability, claiming he gave Mrs Toombes “reasonable advice”.
Medics routinely advise prospective mothers of the benefits of taking folic acid supplements before conceiving and throughout the first 12 weeks of pregnancy to ward off the risk of spina bifida.
The London court heard that Mrs Toombes, now 50 and also a keen equestrian, had gone to see Dr Mitchell to discuss her plans to have a first baby in February 2001.
Mrs Rodway told the judge: “This was a very precious decision to start a family, because she herself had lost her parents when she was young.
“[Caroline and her partner] had been refraining from sexual intercourse until after they had received advice at this consultation.”
The Sussexes with Evie Toombes and her brother Rocco during the annual WellChild Awards.
But despite discussing folic acid, Mrs Toombes 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 Mrs Toombes been properly advised by Dr Mitchell, she would not have gone on to conceive as quickly as she did.
She would have paused her plans, started a course of folic acid treatment and then attempted to get pregnant, she claims. Mrs Rodway added: “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.”
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If she had indeed put off getting pregnant, she would have had a “normal, healthy” baby – but one who was a “genetically different person” to Evie, the QC added. After her birth in November 2001, Evie was diagnosed with a lipomyelomeningocele (LMM), a defect that affects the spine and leads 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. She also suffers with bowel and bladder issues, the court heard.
Dr Mitchell denies liability for what happened. His lawyer, Michael De Navarro QC, told the judge that it was the doctor’s defence that he gave “reasonable advice” about the desirability of folic acid supplements being taken.
It was his usual practice to tell prospective parents that 400 micrograms should be taken by those preparing for pregnancy and through the first three months once pregnant.
He says he would have said that if the mother had a good diet and so good folic acid levels anyway, supplements would be less important, but denies saying they were not necessary.
Evie has spoken about her issues on ITV show Hidden Disabilities: What’s The Truth? In 2018, she met Prince Harry and Meghan when she won the Inspirational Young Person Award at a WellChild charity event.
As well as competing in showjumping, Evie educates children about invisible illnesses and works at Nottingham University.
On her website her motto is: “Find a way, not an excuse.”
The hearing continues.