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Mother of daughter left profoundly disabled due to alleged medical negligence calls for ‘systemic review and reform’ of maternity care at launch of new book

The mother of a child with cerebral palsy has documented her family’s experience coping with the condition, including a legal battle for compensation, in a memoir launched this month.

Posted on 19 March 2024

Josephine Brill suffered a birth asphyxia – oxygen starvation – during labour when she was born on 11th May 1993 and was left profoundly disabled.

Josephine, who died seven years ago at the age of 23, spent her life in a wheelchair with only her hearing unaffected.

Her story is detailed in her mother’s memoir ‘Can I speak to Josephine please?’. The title is inspired by an experience when Josephine was 15 and a careers guidance worker called the family home asking “can I speak to Josephine please?”, encapsulating the disconnect between a family caring for a child with an acute disability and the rest of the world.

The book tells the story of the Brill family, their love for Josephine, and how they learned to accept a life revolving around medical emergencies and surgical interventions.

Photo from the Can I speak to Josephine book launch
Photo from the 'Can I speak to Josephine' book launch


It also outlines their legal battle which took six and a half years to settle and provided the financial support to give Josephine the best possible quality of life over her remaining 17 years.

The family was represented by retired Leigh Day partner Russell Levy and the firm’s current Head of Medical Negligence Suzanne White, who was a trainee at the time.

The launch of the book coincides with an All-Party Parliamentary Group inquiry into birth trauma which is due to conclude on Monday.

Sheila Brill said:

“Motherhood felt like being thrown out of a plane and not knowing how to use the parachute. But Josephine survived so I must have pulled the cord.

“Without systemic review and reform, stories like Josephine’s will, sadly, continue to be told.”

Suzanne White, Head of Clinical Negligence at Leigh Day said:

“Sheila Brill’s memoir is a stark insight into the impact that living with a child with disability has on a family. Acting for the Brill family in their fight for justice was an absolute privilege for me, as it is with all the families I have worked with whose loved ones have suffered harm due to medical negligence.”

Suzanne White
Birth injury Brain injury Cerebral palsy Inquests

Suzanne White

Suzanne White is head of the medical negligence team and has specialised in this area of law since qualifying in 1999.

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