The State Claims Agency has published a report revealing the most common clinical incidents in Ireland and the cost of settling clinical negligence claims.
The report – National Clinical Incidents, Claims and Costs – covers the period between 2010 and 2014. Its purpose, according to lead author Dr Dubhfeasa Slattery, is to help improve patient safety by analysing national data on clinical incidents in Ireland, and studying the results in order to develop a “learning health system” that provides safer care.
More than 206,000 clinical incidents in Ireland were reported to the State Claims Agency over the five year period – not all of which were attributable to medical negligence, and therefore not all resulting in clinical negligence claims. The incidents were divided into five main categories – Medicine, Surgery, Maternity Services, Disability Services and Care of the Elderly.
In the Medicine category – the category in which most clinical incidents were reported – the most common adverse outcomes were attributable to a delay or failure to diagnose and treat (most often in the emergency room), the incorrect medicine or dosage of medicine being prescribed or administered, and serious soft tissue damage – typically caused by bed sores due to a lack of nursing care.
Among the most common surgical clinical incidents in Ireland, the delay or failure to treat was again the leading cause of adverse outcomes. However the high percentage of adverse outcomes attributable to faulty equipment and missing or misplaced clinical records was also a cause for concern – both in the Surgery category and the Maternity Services category.
The leading clinical incidents in Ireland in the Maternity Services category were post-partum haemorrhages and perineal tears, while medication issues and serious soft tissue damage dominated the clinical incidents in the Disability Services and Care of the Elderly categories. A further 66,000 medical incidents were reported to the State Claims Agency during the period being investigated that were not regarded to be of a clinical nature.
In relation to the number of clinical negligence claims made during the period and the cost of settling them, the figures quoted in the report (2,873 claims and €288 million in settlement costs) are misleading as they included claims made during the period not settled during the period, and pre-2010 claims settled between 2010 and 2014. They were also inflated during 2012 by DePuy hip replacement claims, the Lourdes Redress scheme, and by the volume of claims made for unnecessary symphysiotomy procedures.
An anembryonic pregnancy misdiagnosis is medical negligence in Ireland but your entitlement to injury compensation will depend on several factors.
An anembryonic pregnancy occurs during the early stages of pregnancy when a fertilised egg implants in the uterus, but an embryo fails to develop. This often occurs when there are too many or too few chromosomes during fertilisation, and rather than the cells developing into an embryo, a placenta and membranes, only the placenta and membranes develop – fooling the body into believing it is still pregnant, because pregnancy hormones are still being produced which prevent a miscarriage.
The first suggestions of an anembryonic pregnancy (often called a “blighted ovum”) occur during an expectant mother´s first ultrasound – when the ultrasound fails to reveal an embryo within the gestational sac. If the diagnosis of an anembryonic pregnancy is confirmed, the patient will be given the option of a dilation and curettage procedure to remove the tissue from inside the uterus, administered methotrexate to induce a miscarriage, or allowed to wait until a miscarriage occurs naturally.
The Misdiagnosis of an Anembryonic Pregnancy
An anembryonic pregnancy misdiagnosis can occur in many different circumstances. Most commonly an expectant mother is misdiagnosed with an anembryonic pregnancy because she has a tilted ovum, hiding the living embryo from the view of the ultrasound. Embryos in women with a tilted uterus often appear one to two weeks behind, giving the impression that the embryo has died or miscarried.
The ultrasound machine used for the scan may be faulty, or the person operating the scan may not have sufficient experience or training to detect a foetal heartbeat when the foetus is apparently underdeveloped. Indeed, in 2011, the Health Service Executive had to apologise to twenty-four women – twenty-two of whom who were diagnosed as having miscarried, and then went on to have perfectly healthy children (the remaining two only miscarried after undergoing medical procedures to remove the foetus).
Is an Anembryonic Pregnancy Misdiagnosis Medical Negligence in Ireland?
An anembryonic pregnancy misdiagnosis is medical negligence in Ireland when a medical practitioner has demonstrated a poor professional performance – whether a lack of skill or a failure to apply that skill. Even when the anembryonic pregnancy misdiagnosis is due to a faulty ultrasound machine, the medical practitioner should have sought a second opinion or second scan before misdiagnosing an anembryonic pregnancy.
Whether or not you can claim compensation for an anembryonic pregnancy misdiagnosis depends on what happens after the misdiagnosis. If you have been misdiagnosed with an anembryonic pregnancy – and do not undergo any procedures to remove the foetus or induce a miscarriage – and subsequently a foetal heartbeat is discovered and you ultimately give birth to a healthy child, no loss or injury has occurred and you will not be eligible for compensation for an anembryonic pregnancy misdiagnosis.
If you are misdiagnosed with an anembryonic pregnancy and do undergo a procedure to miscarry the foetus – and it is subsequently discovered that there was a fault with the ultrasound or that a medical practitioner has made similar misdiagnoses before, and that you may have been carrying a healthy embryo – it may be possible to claim for anembryonic pregnancy misdiagnosis compensation.
In order for the claim to be successful, it will have to be shown that on the balance of probabilities you would have delivered a healthy child and that the misdiagnosis was the reason for you agreeing to the termination of the pregnancy. In this scenario, you will only be able to claim for your emotional distress. The law in Ireland states that a plaintiff´s right to compensation only comes into existence when they are born, and therefore you will be unable to claim compensation for the wrongful death of your child.
A young boy´s claim for the failure to treat meningitis has been resolved in court with the approval of a €3.7 million interim settlement of compensation.
Matthew McGrath was admitted to Wexford General Hospital on 27th May 2004 at the age of 17 months after it was noticed that he was uncharacteristically drowsy and vomiting fluids. Matthew was diagnosed with Haemophilus Influenza Type B – which is known to lead on to meningitis – and he should have been administered antibiotics.
Overnight, Matthew´s condition deteriorated and he was identified as being in shock. Despite medical guidelines recommending against it when a patient is in shock, Matthew underwent a lumbar puncture procedure to confirm suspected meningitis – due to which a compression of the spinal cord took place and Matthew is now permanently paralysed.
Due to the failure to administer antibiotics when Matthew was first admitted to the hospital, and the subsequent inappropriate lumbar puncture, Matthew cannot move his arms or legs and can only breathe through a ventilator. He spent the next two years of his life in hospital until his parents were eventually allowed to care for their son at home.
Through his mother – Cathy McGrath of Gorey in County Wexford – Matthew made a claim for the failure to treat meningitis against the HSE – alleging that, if he had been treated with antibiotics and given fluids at the time of his admission into Wexford General Hospital, he would not have suffered such devastating injuries.
After an investigation into the claim for the failure to treat meningitis, the HSE admitted liability and issued an apology to Matthew´s parents. An interim compensation settlement of €3.7 million was agreed, but first had to be approved by a judge before payment could be made.
Consequently, at the High Court in Dublin, the circumstances of Matthew´s devastating and unnecessary injuries were related to Mr Justice Matthew Cross. Judge Cross approved the settlement, and adjourned the claim for the failure to treat meningitis for five years in order that reports into Matthew´s future needs can be conducted.
An interim settlement of a cerebral palsy claim against the Kerry General Hospital has been approved in court in favour of a three–year-old girl.
Skye Worthington was born at the Kerry General Hospital on April 22nd 2011 after her mother – Colleen – had been administered with syntocinon to accelerate her labour. Colleen´s contractions thereafter became very strong, but a prolonged deceleration of Skye´s heartbeat went unnoticed and the baby was starved of oxygen in the womb.
Due the brain damage she suffered at her birth, Skye – now three years of age – now suffers from cerebral palsy. She has to be fed through a tube and can only communicate with her eyes. An investigation into the circumstances of her delivery revealed that if Skye had been born fifteen minutes earlier, she would have suffered no injury at all.
Through her mother, Skye made a cerebral palsy claim against the Kerry General Hospital – alleging that, were it not for the negligence of the maternity staff, she would not have suffered a devastating birth injury. The hospital and HSE admitted liability and an interim settlement of the cerebral palsy claim was agreed pending an assessment of Skye´s future needs.
At the High Court, Skye´s patents and Mr Justice Kevin Cross heard a statement read to the court in which the HSE South/South-West Hospital Group and the maternity department of Kerry General Hospital apologised unreservedly for the errors that led to Skye´s birth injuries – an apology which Mr Justice Kevin Cross described as “out of the ordinary and very meaningful”.
The judge then explained to Skye´s parents that he was approving a €2.52 million interim settlement of the cerebral palsy claim and adjourning Skye´s case for three years. This meant that once the assessment of Skye´s needs had been completed, they could either request a lump sum final settlement of the cerebral palsy claim or – subject to legislation being introduced – annual periodic payments.
A County Wicklow teenager´s meningitis medical negligence claim for compensation has been resolved after a High Court hearing at which her settlement of compensation was approved.
Laura Kavanagh (18) from Newtownmountkennedy in County Wicklow had fallen ill on 29 January 1998 at the age of thirteen months with a high temperature and severe fatigue. Her mother – Simone – had telephoned the surgery of Dr Frank Malone and Dr Paul Crean in Greystones in County Wicklow to communicate her daughter´s condition and had been told to keep an eye out for a rash.
Several hours later, Laura´s condition had deteriorated and Simone Kavanagh rang the surgery again – on this occasion speaking with Dr Crean, who said he would make a house call after surgery due to Simone not having transport available.
Three and a half hours later, Dr Crean arrived at the Kavanagh´s home and diagnosed a bowel infection. He left two suppositories and told Simone to call him back in the morning if Laura´s condition had not improved. The following day, Simone called the surgery requesting a home visit, but later cancelled the call as Laura seemed to be looking better.
However, the next morning Laura once again was very ill, and Simone was able to get an on-call doctor to visit straight away. He immediately admitted Laura to hospital, where she was diagnosed with severe meningitis.
As a result of the illness, Laura lost her hearing, and through her mother she made a meningitis medical negligence claim for compensation against Drs Malone and Crean, alleging that Dr Crean had failed to diagnose meningitis and that there had been a failure to attend Laura in good time, ensure proper care or any continuity of care.
The two doctors denied Laura´s meningitis medical negligence claim, however agreed a €5 million settlement of meningitis medical negligence compensation without admission of liability.
At the High Court in Dublin, Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard that if Laura had been admitted to hospital when Dr Crean misdiagnosed her condition as a bowel infection, it was likely that Laura would not have lost her hearing.
The judge was also told that after Laura lost her hearing, she learned to communicate through sign language and lip reading – but has a moderate intellectual disability. Ms Justice Mary Irvine approved the settlement of Laura´s meningitis medical negligence claim, saying that it would never give Laura the life she was meant to have.
The family of a woman who died from an undiagnosed tumour in her abdomen is to receive €62,500 compensation for the failure to diagnose cancer.
Sharon McEneaney (31) from Carrickmacross in County Monaghan died in April 2009 from a cancerous tumour in her abdomen, eighteen months after she had first attended the emergency department of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda complaining of abdominal pain.
The cancerous tumour went undiagnosed for a further nine months, and was only identified after Sharon was given a biopsy due to the intervention of former TD Dr Rory O´Hanlon in June 2008. By then the tumour had developed to such as size that it was too late for any treatment, and Sharon died the following April.
The Health Service Executive (HSE) conducted an investigation in Sharon´s death and made 38 recommendations to prevent future failures to diagnose cancer, while – in January 2012 – Dr Etop Samson Akpan was found guilty of a poor professional performance by the Medical Council of Ireland´s Fitness to Practise Committee.
At the High Court in Dublin, Margaret Swords – the General Manager of the Louth & Meath Hospital Group – read out an apology to the McEneaney family, admitting that the hospital had failed Sharon, but also stating that the hospital was making progress in making the changes required. The court heard that, five years after Sharon´s death, six of the HSE´s recommendations are still to be implemented.
The court also heard that a settlement of compensation for the failure to diagnose cancer had been agreed between the hospital and Sharon´s family, with €10,000 going towards Sharon´s funeral and other expenses connected with her death, €27,100 compensation for the failure to diagnose cancer going to Sharon´s mother Jane, and the remainder to be shared by Sharon´s four siblings.
Ms Justice Mary Irvine closed the hearing after commending Sharon´s family for their courage and tenacity, and commented “You have shown marvellous fortitude in the face of such a loss”.
A young woman, whose opportunity to compete in the Special Olympics was denied due to medical negligence, has had her settlement of compensation for a missed knee fracture approved in court.
In May 2009, Amy Rose McGowan (now 31) was in training for the Special Olympics World Games that were scheduled to take place in the summer of 2011 in Athens. Unfortunately, while participating in a 50 metre training race, Amy Rose fell and hurt her knee.
Amy Rose attended Our Lady´s Hospital in Navan, where – after an x-ray had been taken – she was diagnosed with a soft tissue injury and her knee was strapped for support. However, a few months later, a pain started to develop in her knee and Amy Rose saw her GP.
On inspection of her injury, her doctor discovered that Amy Rose had suffered a depressed fracture which had been overlooked at the hospital. Unfortunately the discovery was made too late for corrective surgery, and Amy Rose had to abandon her dreams of representing Ireland in Athens.
Through her mother – Charlotte McGowan of Trim, County Meath – Amy Rose made a claim for missed knee facture compensation against the Health Service Executive (HSE), alleging that the care, diagnosis and treatment she had received in the emergency department of Our Lady’s Hospital had been negligent.
After an investigation, the HSE acknowledged that the depressed fracture had been overlooked by hospital staff and liability was admitted for Amy Roses´ knee injury. A settlement of compensation for a missed knee fracture was agreed; but, as the claim had been made on behalf of Amy Rose due to her intellectual disability, the settlement had to be approved by a judge.
Consequently, Mr Justice Michael Peart at the High Court in Dublin heard how Amy Rose had previously been a successful swimmer and athlete before her accident and had won 34 medals and 10 trophies. Approving the settlement of €142,000 the judge said it was a pity Amy Rose´s athletics career had been cut short.
A judge has resolved a forty-year-old woman´s claim for a hospital´s lack of care after the birth of her child which resulted in a significant loss of blood due to haemorrhaging.
Honey Larkin brought her claim for a hospital´s lack of care after the birth of her child following the events of January 2008 at the Letterkenny General Hospital in County Donegal.
Honey had given birth to her final child by Caesarean section, but started haemorrhaging heavily while in recovery. Honey claimed in her action against consultant gynaecologist Eddie Aboud and the Health Service Executive (HSE) that she had a near-death experience due to the loss of blood while she was waiting for the hospital to arrange a further surgery to stop the bleeding.
Honey – who also comes from Letterkenny in County Donegal – claimed that neither the staff at the hospital nor Mr Aboud checked for indications of bleeding after the Caesarean operation; and when the cause of her distress was acknowledged the hospital failed to act appropriately within a reasonable timeframe. The result, Honey claimed, is that she now suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Both Mr Aboud and the HSE contested Honey´s claim for the hospital´s lack of care after the birth of her child; entering the defence that she was treated appropriately throughout and after the Caesarean procedure, and in a timely manner once staff raised the alarm about the haemorrhage. Consequently the case went to the High Court and was heard by Mr Justice Kevin Cross.
At the hearing, Judge Cross was told that no internal haemorrhaging had been apparent when Mr Aboud had finished the Caesarean operation; but, when he was called back to attend to Honey, he performed the second operation quickly and successfully. Judge Cross said he felt that Mr Aboud could not be held liable for any of Honey´s suffering and dismissed the gynaecologist from the case.
However, after considering the actions of the hospital once Honey´s condition had been identified, Judge Cross found that the Letterkenny General Hospital had failed in their duty of care towards her. He ordered the HSE to pay €25,000 compensation in resolution of Honey´s claim for the hospital´s lack of care after the birth of her child.
The High Court has heard that a family has settled its compensation claim against the HSE, made after the death of Eileen Maloney at Mayo General Hospital in February 2009.
Eileen (69) from Pullathomas in County Mayo had been admitted to Mayo General Hospital on 1st February 2009 complaining of a severe pain in the abdomen. Because it was the weekend and no doctor was available, the family alleged that an X-ray showing an obstruction in her small intestine was not reviewed and her perforated bowel misdiagnosed.
It was not until the following Friday that Eileen was given a CT scan – which revealed a tumour had developed in her large bowel – but despite Eileen being in constant pain, surgery was not scheduled until the Thursday of the next week. The family claimed in their action against the HSE that, had this scan be reviewed properly, Eileen´s perforated bowel would have been identified and surgery brought forward.
Eileen died five days after the operation to remove the tumour, and the family alleged in their compensation claim against the HSE they were told that Eileen – who was suffering from cancer – would have survived the surgery, and would have had at least six months to live, had the correct diagnosis been made at the time of her admission and the appropriate treatment provided.
Mayo general Hospital and the HSE denied their responsibility for Eileen´s wrongful death and disputed the family´s right to claim compensation for mental anguish due to hospital negligence. However, at the High Court, Mr Justice Michael Peart was told that an agreement had been reached which would see the compensation claim against the HSE settled for €50,000 without admission of liability.
After hearing the circumstances of Eileen´s death – which Mr Justice Michael Peart described as “very, very tragic” – the judge approved the settlement of the family´s claim.
The husband of Savita Halappanavar has announced that he is seeking compensation for hospital negligence after the HSE report was release into the circumstances of her death in October last year.
Savita died at the University Hospital in Galway one week after having attended the Accident and Emergency department complaining of acute back pain. She was found to be in the process of miscarrying her 17 week foetus and was sent home.
Savita returned to the hospital later in the day as the pain had not subsided and was admitted under the care of consultant doctor Dr Katherine Astbury. Savita´s waters broke the following morning and requested a termination, but was told to “await events” as an abortion was not possible while there was still a foetal heartbeat.
Savita´s condition continued to deteriorate – during which time she was misdiagnosed by Dr Astbury as suffering from sepsis after the consultant doctor had failed to read the patient notes made the previous evening. Dr Astbury eventually consulted with a senior colleague about a termination, but a scan later revealed that Savita´s baby was already dead.
After being moved into theatre, Savita spontaneously delivered her deceased baby and was later moved into intensive care suffering from septic shock. The following morning it was discovered that Savita had developed severe septicaemia due to E.coli ESBL, due to which she became critically ill and, on Sunday October 28th, she suffered a cardiac arrest and died of multiple organ failure.
A verdict of medical misadventure was delivered at the inquest into Savita´s death, but a subsequent Health Service Executive investigation failed to identify who was to blame for the negligent treatment Savita received or acknowledge liability for her death; prompting family and friends to describe the investigation as a “whitewash”.
In order to get answers to the questions which remain after the investigation, Savita´s husband – Praveen Halappanavar – has made a claim for compensation for hospital negligence against the University Hospital Galway and the HSE alleging that the hospital failed to treat, failed to follow up blood tests, and failed to diagnose.
The University Hospital Galway and the HSE have not yet indicated whether they will acknowledge liability before a court date is arranged to resolve the claim for hospital negligence compensation.
The family of a girl who suffered brain damage at her birth due to hospital obstetric negligence have had their claim for birth injuries due to a lack of staff resolved at the High Court in Dublin.
Alex Butler (8) from Dunmore East, County Waterford, was born at the Waterford Regional Hospital in April 2005; however, due to the hospital´s failure to have an adequate number of properly trained competent medical staff to deal with the Alex´s delivery, and to ensure that an adequate and properly competent obstetrician was available, Alex´s delivery was delayed by twelve minutes – during which time she suffered brain damage which led to permanent tetraplegic injury.
Through her mother – Sonya – Alex made a claim for birth injuries due to a lack of staff at the hospital, alleging that her consultant obstetrician had been allowed to take leave at the same time as the hospital´s two other obstetricians and that the hospital had employed a locum obstetrician without ensuring that he competent. It was further claimed that Sonya´s pre-operative assessment was substandard and there was a failure to recognise the necessity for a Caesarean section.
The High Court heard that the Health Service Executive (HSE) admitted liability for Alex´s injuries, and the claim for birth injuries due to a lack of staff against the consultant obstetrician – John Bermingham – and locum obstetrician – Mahmud Khbuli – were dismissed. A representative from Waterford read out an apology for the mismanagement of Alex´s birth and accepted that the mistakes that were made should never have happened.
The Court also heard that an interim settlement of Alex´s claim for birth injuries due to a lack of staff amounting to €1.4 million had been agreed upon between the HSE and Alex´s parents. The compensation settlement is to be reviewed again in two years when an assessment of Alex´s care needs for the future has been made, and by which time it is hoped that the option of a structured settlement is available.
A woman, who underwent a symphysiotomy procedure at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in 2000, has been awarded €591,297 compensation for injuries from symphysiotomy by the High Court.
Tracey Nelson (45) from Navan in County Meath underwent the procedure prior to the delivery of her second child, when medical staff at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda failed to correctly diagnose the symptoms of symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD).
After suffering for many years with the physical discomfort from the symphysiotomy, Tracey underwent surgery in 2004 to stabilise her condition and again, in 2007, had to have a spinal cord stimulator fitted – since when Tracey has been relatively free of pain.
However, as Tracey related toMr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill at the High Court, she has also suffered emotionally due to the negligence of the medical staff who failed in their duty of care to manage her pregnancy.
Tracey told the court she had developed fibromyalgia – where she had constant pain in her muscles and joints – and due to the pain, started to drink alcohol heavily. This resulted in the break-up of her marriage and, in turn, to depression.
Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital denied their liability for Tracey´s injuries, but Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill ruled that he was satisfied from the medical evidence there was a failure to diagnose SPD on February 2nd when Tracey attended the hospital complaining of pain in the pelvic area.
The judge said there was no doubt that the “primary cause” of Tracey´s physical and psychological injuries was the negligence of the HSE and “terrible consequences” of it. “I am quite satisfied that the failures in this regard fell substantially below the standard of care to be expected of doctors practising obstetrics in a maternity unit such as Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda,” he said.
Awarding Tracey €591,297 in compensation for injuries from symphysiotomy, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill said that he was also satisfied the doctors and midwives who attended Ms Nelson were “oblivious” to her SPD condition and consequently took no precautions to prevent the risk of avoidable injury during the course of her labour.
A former student, who suffers severe spasticity of the limbs and has eye movement problems allegedly due to the negligence of a Galway hospital, has had his delayed diagnosis of a brain tumour claim heard in court.
Seamus Walshe Jnr (27) of Taylor´s Hill, Galway, was a 21-year-old student studying construction studies when he first started suffering problems with his eyes in 2006 whenever he looked upwards. His symptoms deteriorated to the point where upward eye movement left him feeling nauseous and he would start to vomit.
Seamus attended Galway University Hospital with his problems, but was told after a neurological examination that there was nothing seriously wrong with him and he should get used to having problems with his eyes.
Seamus returned to Galway University Hospital later in the year when he started to develop pains in his head and underwent a scan which revealed a brain tumour. He was referred to Dublin´s Beaumont Hospital where he underwent surgery to remove the tumour in May 2007.
However, complication during the brain tumour operation resulted in severe haemorrhaging around the brain and Seamus was kept in intensive care for nine weeks following surgery. When he started to recover, he was transferred back to Galway University Hospital in November 2007.
Ms Justice Mary Irvine at the High Court heard that in September 2008 Seamus was sent to the National Rehabilitation Centre in Dún Laoghaire but, because of the alleged negligent treatment he had received, was confined to a wheelchair with spasticity of the limbs and had problems moving his eyes.
Seamus made a compensation claim for the delayed diagnosis of his brain tumour through his father, Seamus Snr, claiming that had he had a scan when he first attended the Galway University Hospital, the tumour would have been diagnosed earlier and he would have been referred to the Beaumont Hospital sooner.
A second claim was made against the Beaumont Hospital for choosing to perform brain surgery when treatment with chemotherapy and radiotherapy had resulted in long term survival rates of up to 90 percent.
Both the Health Service Executive – on behalf of Galway University Hospital – and the Beaumont Hospital denied their liability for Seamus´ injury, but Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard that a negotiated settlement of 2.5 million Euros in compensation for the delayed diagnosis of a brain tumour had been agreed without admission of liability.
The settlement of compensation is intended to provide Seamus with the care he needs for the next three years, after which time a structured periodic payment system would provide for his future care if legislation was passed by the Government in time to allow such a payment procedure.
Mr Justice John Quirke has spoken out against delays in introducing “periodic payment orders” for personal injury compensation cases in which catastrophic injuries have been sustained. Describing the current lump-sum award system as “a lottery situation”, the chairman of the Working Group on Medical Negligence has been pressing for more than a year for a periodic payment system to be introduced.
The judge was addressing lawyers representing the State and Health Service Executive when his concerns about delays in the promised legislation were made public. Mr Justice John Quirke told the assembly that the informal approval of a life-long payments system had already saved the State “tens of millions” of Euros, however he claimed that seriously ill people would be in an unsatisfactory position if the laws were not speedily introduced.
The judge brought to the lawyers attention two specific cases which are due for review in October 2011.
The first concerned Brid Courtney of Ardfert, County Kerry, who was awarded an interim personal injury settlement of 2 million Euros in compensation for alleged negligence at her birth. Now suffering the consequences of birth-acquired brain damage, Brid will need lifelong care – care which should be paid for in periodic payments if legislation is passed in time.
The second case revolved around Elaine Lennon of Balbriggin, County Dublin, who is now severely disabled due to the failure of the Castle Mill Medical Centre to properly diagnose a brain infection during her pregnancy. Elaine too was awarded in excess of 2 million Euros as an interim settlement on the basis that she would benefit from the periodic payments structure once legislation was introduced.
In his comments to the lawyers, Mr Justice John Quirke expressed that if the State failed to quickly make its intentions clear about how soon periodic payment legislation was to be introduced, judges would have no option but to revert to sanctioning lump sum payments – at great expense to the State and Health Service Executive.
Thirty six year old Elaine Lennon was an award-winning opera singer, with a bright future ahead of her both as a singer and as a recently qualified psychologist. However, in February 2007, she started suffering headaches during the pregnancy of her daughter Claudia, and attended the accident and emergency unit of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, County Louth.
There, Mr. Justice John Quirk heard at the High Court, she was diagnosed by a medical registrar as suffering from a urinary tract infection and referred to a midwife, who assessed she was about to give birth and ordered that Elaine underwent a Caesarean section to deliver Claudia.
Claudia was born a healthy baby, but the headaches and neck stiffness continued and Elaine failed to respond to antibiotics. Doctors at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital twice queried whether a CT scan of her brain should be performed but none was done, and Elaine and her baby were discharged a week after the birth.
Had a CT scan of Elaine´s brain been carried out at the time, doctors would have noticed an abscess which later burst into the ventricles. Instead, she attended her GP´s clinic at Castle Mill Medical Centre, Balbriggan, where Dr. Patrick Mathuna administered an injection which temporarily stopped the headaches and vomiting which had developed.
Dr. Mathuna called on Elaine several days later, determined that she was suffering from post-natal depression and prescribed a sedative. Later that day, she collapsed at home and was admitted to Our Lady of Lourdes Accident and Emergency Department by ambulance. The following morning, Elaine suffered two seizures after which a CT scan was performed which revealed the extent of Elaine´s illness.
Suing the Health Service Executive and Dr. Mathuna through her father, the court heard how Elaine formerly of Newhaven Bay, Balbriggan, County Dublin, is now confined to a wheelchair and can only speak in a whisper. She also requires 24 hour care due to the doctors failing to notice her brain injury.
Approving an interim compensation settlement of 2.39 million Euros, Mr. Justice John Quirke said that, were it not for her injuries, Elaine had the potential to make a lot of money in the future. Both the HSE and Dr. Mathuna admitted liability.