€5m Birth Negligence Compensation Settlement for Boy (14) with Cerebral Palsy

A €5m Birth Injury Compensation settlement for a 14-year old boy has been approved in High Court in relation to the circumstances of his birth at Sligo General Hospital.

The boy Conor Maxwell was represented by Des O’Neill SC and Doireann O’Mahony BL who advised told the court Conor has spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy and cannot communicate. They told the judge that, as far as they understand, Conor is happy but has trouble communicating and with his vision. Mr O’Neill said the settlement was settlement between the sides.

Presiding Judge Justice Kevin Cross spoke highly of Conor’s parents for the care they have given their son and the judge said the settlement will now help, “as far as money can” in the future care of the boy.

Conor of Carrickmackeegan, Ballinamore, County Leitrim was born on August 13, 2003. His mother was admitted to Sligo General Hospital in labour two weeks prior her due date. It was alleged that f Ms Maxwell’s labour was not handled correctly and as a result, the baby was exposed to significant hypoxia-ischaemia. The baby was monitored by continuous CTG but the cardiogram was allegedly abnormal from the start. These decelerations it was claimed were suggested the presence of hypoxia in the baby, but their importance was allegedly not considered.

It was claimed that the CTG was clearly abnormal abut was misinterpreted over and over again. Conor was delivered at 07.17am on August 13, 2003 and required resuscitation and in the hours after his birth contracted severe breathing difficulties and experienced seizures.

Conor’s legal team argued that there was an alleged failure to exercise the competence, diligence, care, and judgement necessary in the management of a birth.

In giving his approval to the birth injury compensation settlement Mr Justice Cross praised Conor’s mother Evonne and dad, Jason Kellett for the way they have raised for their son. The judge said it was a good settlement and he wished the family all the best for the future.


Hospital Fall Injury Claim Resolved at Circuit Civil Court

A hospital fall injury claim has been resolved at the Circuit Civil Court in favour of a seventy-nine year old woman who fractured her spine in the accident.

In April 2015, the woman attended the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital in Dublin for a routine gastroscopy. Following a successful procedure, she was given a cup of tea as she started to come out of the general anaesthetic, and left alone on the recovery unit. Unfortunately, as the woman attempted to get out of bed, she fell – fracturing her spine when she landed on the floor.

Rather than attending the hospital as a day patient as had been intended, the woman spent a further month at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital before being transferred to the Incorporated Orthopaedic Hospital in Clontarf for specialised treatment. She remained at the Clontarf hospital for a further three months before being removed by her daughter to be cared for at home.

The woman, who prior to her fall had lived an independent life, now requires full-time care. She has to wear a lumbar brace at all times and uses a Zimmer frame for walking. After seeking legal advice, the woman made a hospital fall injury claim against the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital, alleging that the hospital had failed to adhere to its own falls prevention policy.

At the Circuit Civil Court, Judge James O´Donohoe heard that due to the injury in the hospital fall the woman was no longer the woman she previously was. He was also told that the woman had required hospital treatment previously following a fall at her home in November 2014, and the hospital should have reasonably been aware of this and monitored her closely.

Judge O´Donohoe heard evidence from the recovery unit´s Head of Nursing, but said “what speaks volumes to this court is that the ward nurse who attended the plaintiff was not called to give evidence.” The judge also accepted the evident of an expert witness who testified the Mater Hospital had failed to comply with its standard falls prevention policy.

Finding in favour of the plaintiff, Judge O´Donohoe said the gastroscopy had a good outcome but tragically things changed for the worse. Initially awarding the woman €58,500 in settlement of her hospital fall injury claim, the judge granted a stay pending a possible appeal on the proviso a partial settlement of €30,000 was paid immediately.


Report Reveals Most Common Clinical Incidents in Ireland

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.


Claims for Birth Defects due to taking Epilim

Claims for birth defects due to taking Epilim while pregnant have been made in France on behalf of up to 4,100 children with foetal valproate syndrome.

Epilim is the trade name of an anti-epilepsy drug that uses the active ingredient sodium valproate to control electrical activity in the brain. Introduced in France in 1967, Epilim was passed for use in Ireland in 1983, and is now also often prescribed to treat bipolar disorder, migraine and chronic pain.

At the time it was introduced into Ireland, claims for birth defects due to taking Epilim while pregnant were being investigated in France. It was alleged that the sodium valproate entered the bloodstream as valproic acid, which caused foetal congenital and development issues.

The evidence of birth defects due to taking Epilim was considered inconclusive, and the drug continued to be prescribed to pregnant mothers. It was only in 2006 that the manufacturers of the drug – Sanofi – warned that sodium valproate may have adverse effects and advised the medical profession to advise pregnant mothers of the potential risks.

Research conducted several years later by France´s social affairs inspectorate – IGAS – found the majority of doctors and pharmacists were unaware of the risks associated with Epilim. The research prompted the inspectorate to conduct a small scale study in the Rhone-Alpes region last year, where a much higher than expected rate of birth defects due to taking Epilim while pregnant was discovered.

France’s National Agency for the Safety of Medicines (ANSM) looked deeper into the issue and researched the health of 8,701 children born between 2007 and 2014 whose mothers were known to have taken Epilim during their pregnancies. ANSM identified up to 4,100 children suffering from foetal valproate syndrome and discovered hundreds of Epilim-related stillbirths.

ANSM´s study has resulted in the families of those affected by the adverse effects of sodium valproate to form a class action in order to jointly make claims for birth defects due to taking Epilim. The families claim that Sanofi did not do enough to adequately inform the medical profession of the risks associate with the drug. It also claims the drug manufacturer failed to put adequate warning on its packaging.

In Ireland, the Disability Federation has called on the government to conduct an audit of children diagnose with foetal valproate syndrome. The organisation claims the scale of the problem in Ireland should be identified in order that adequate support measures are provided for families. If a member of your family has been affected by foetal valproate syndrome, and you would like to know more about claims for birth defects due to taking Epilim while pregnant, you should speak with a solicitor.


Claim for Slipping on Wet Leaves at Work Resolved in Court

A claim for slipping on wet leaves at work has been resolved at the Circuit Civil Court with the award of €25,879 injury compensation to a kitchen assistant.

On 19th November 2012, Ann Groves (58) was walking along a path towards the back entrance of the Baltinglass Hospital when she slipped on wet leaves and injured her ankle. Ann – who worked at the hospital as a kitchen assistant – was able to reduce the swelling with an ice pack and later attended her GP, who strapped Ann´s ankle for support after diagnosing a soft tissue injury.

Unfortunately the pain from the ankle injury continued. Unable to sleep, walk or stand for long periods, Ann sought medical attention from a number of specialists. She underwent sessions of physiotherapy and acupuncture before having a spinal cord stimulated surgically implanted in 2014; which although it helped with the pain, did not resolve the problem completely.

On her solicitor´s advice, Ann made a claim for slipping on wet leaves at work against her employer – the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE denied responsibility for Ann´s injury at work, contesting the claim on the grounds that a sage cleaning system was in place at the hospital, and that Ann had contributed to her accident and subsequent injury due to her own lack of care.

With no agreement on liability, the Injuries Board issued Ann with an authorisation to pursue her claim for slipping on wet leaves at work through the courts. The case was heard earlier this week by Judge Barry Hickson at the Circuit Civil Court, who was told that Ann´s accident had occurred early on a Monday morning after a particularly stormy weekend.

The judge found in Ann´s favour and dismissed the HSE´s claims of contributory negligence after hearing evidence from a maintenance engineer who testified that the maintenance team at the hospital started work after the kitchen assistants. The judge awarded Ann €25,879 compensation in settlement of her claim for slipping on wet leaves at work.


Compensation Awards made by the High Court under Attack

A representative of the motor insurance industry has claimed that judges need educating about who pays for compensation awards made by the High Court.

The attack on compensation awards made by the High Court was made by Conor Faughan from AA Ireland, who was responding to the news that the average value of High Court personal injury settlements had increased from €227,000 in 2013 to €304,000 last year.

Mr Faughan said there was a need for judges to be educated so that they would understand that compensation awards made by the High Court are paid for by the country´s two million drivers. Although not strictly true (few road traffic accident claims are resolved in the High Court), Mr Faughan pointed out that the average value of assessments conducted by the Injuries Board had remained steady during the same period at around €22,600.

It has also been suggested that the increase in the average value of compensation awards made by the High Court could be due to changes made under the Courts and Civil Law Act 2013, which saw the minimum potential compensation level at which cases would be heard by the High Court from €38,092 to €60,000. Some observers believe that High Court judges are awarding a minimum compensation settlement of €60,000 when – prior to the increase – they would have awarded less.

Dorothea Dowling – founding chairperson of the Injuries Board, and the chair of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board – believes that plaintiffs are shunning Injuries Board assessments for higher compensation awards made by the High Court. Ms Dowling told the Independent: “The Department of Justice was forewarned well in advance. This is what happens when you increase the limits of the lower courts – it sends out the message that €38,000 is small money.”

Whereas Ms Dowling has a point, it is not a point that everybody shares. Earlier this year (In McGarry v McGarry) Mr Justice Bernard Barton criticised the government for not updating the injury compensation values published in the Book of Quantum since 2004. During the case, Judge Barton acknowledged that for all practical purposes the Book of Quantum was being ignored by the courts because it was so out of date and commented “it is unquestionably in the interests of the proper administration of justice that the Book be reviewed and be kept updated to properly reflect [compensation awards made by the High Court]”.


State Claims Agency Criticised after Settlement of Claim for Severe Birth Injuries

The mother of a brain damaged girl has criticised the State Claims Agency for delaying the settlement of her daughter´s claim for severe birth injuries.

Alex Butler (10) from Dunmore East, County Waterford, was born at the Waterford Regional Hospital in April 2005, “blue and lifeless” after her delivery had been mismanaged and she had been deprived of oxygen in the womb.

Alex was resuscitated, but is tetraplegic and normally confined to a wheelchair. Only through the efforts of her parents is Alex capable of walking a few steps, but she will require full-time care for the rest of her life.

Through her mother – Sonya – Alex made a claim for severe birth injuries against the Health Service Executive (HSE), her mother´s consultant obstetrician John Bermingham, and the locum Mahmud Khbuli who had failed to identify the need for an emergency Caesarean Section when Alex´s foetal heartrate dropped.

The HSE admitted liability and the case against the two doctors was dismissed. The family received a €1.4 million interim settlement of compensation in 2013, and the claim for severe birth injuries was recently heard once again at the High Court for a final settlement to be approved.

Even though liability had been admitted and an apology read out to the family at the start of the proceedings, it took eighteen days for the State Claims Agency to agree to a €9 million final settlement of the claim for severe birth injuries – provoking Alex´s mother to describe their attitude as “disgusting”.

“They fought tooth and nail” Sonya told the press after the settlement had been approved. “They basically want Alex to have an existence, not a life. They want her to scrape by with the bare minimum rather than her having the life that she should have had.”

In response, the State Claims Agency issued a statement which read: “The State Claims Agency recognises that clinical negligence cases involve patients who have suffered enormous trauma and pain. The Agency is acutely conscious that it has a duty to act fairly, ethically and with compassion in all its dealings with these patients and their families.”

The statement concluded by attacking the lack of a structured settlement system: “The Agency has frequently stated that the current legal system for resolving medical negligence cases is not fit for purpose and has been to the forefront in introducing reforms to make the process easier for the families involved.”


Is an Anembryonic Pregnancy Misdiagnosis Medical Negligence in Ireland?

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.


Health Service Medical Negligence Claims Double in Five Years

According to figures released by the State Claims Agency, health service medical negligence claims against the HSE have almost doubled within the past five years.

The State Claims Agency recently reported that last year 936 health service medical negligence claims were lodged with the High Court – almost double the number reported in 2010. In addition to the new health service medical negligence claims, the State Claims Agency is already dealing with more than 3,000 historical claims dating back to 2013 or earlier, and a further 218 claims have already been lodged this year.

However, the State Claims Agency´s figures do not tell the whole story. The 936 health service medical negligence claims fail to take into account claims issued in the District Courts and Circuit Courts, or public liability claims for accidents to hospital visitors and employer liability claims when healthcare workers have been injured working in – or on behalf of – Irish Hospitals.

The number of health service medical negligence claims could continue to rise given the recent high-profile issues with the nation´s maternity services. The damming Hiqa report into failings at the Portlaoise Hospital prompted HSE chief Tony O´Brien to call for a “clear-out of uncompassionate staff”, but Health Minister Leo Varadkar is under the impression that “wall of silence” is responsible for the substantial increase in health service medical negligence claims.

Minister Varadkar has criticised an “open disclosure” initiative implemented in 2013 by the HSE and State Claims Agency. The initiative was failing to work the Minister said because hospital managers were failing to engage with patients who had a negative experience in Irish hospitals, and the patients were going to the courts to get answers to what went wrong.

“When something goes wrong, it’s OK to say that you’re sorry about what happened”, the minister commented. “It does not mean you’re accepting liability. There is a never a good reason to conceal the truth from a patient or their family once the facts are known. Aside from making sense from a human point of view, it’s the right thing to do financially”.

New legislation is being drawn up by the Department of Health to reinforce the policy of open disclosure so that healthcare workers can provide information to patients and their families without prejudicing future health service medical negligence claims. While the legislation is being drawn up, the number of outstanding health service medical negligence claims continues to increase.


Claim for the Failure to Treat Meningitis Resolved in Court

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.


Guidelines Could Prevent More Syntocinon Birth Injury Claims

The State Claims Agency has said that a consistent set of guidelines should be compiled for birth-inducing drugs to prevent more Syntocinon birth injury claims.

Syntocinon is the brand name in Ireland of oxytocin – a synthetic drug that is frequently used in maternity wards to induce labour and accelerate contractions. The benefits of Syntocinon are that the drug reduces the time spent in labour, prevents excessive bleeding and helps the womb to contract after childbirth.

However, when Syntocinon is administered, both mother and child need careful monitoring to observe any signs of an adverse reaction or foetal distress. Oxytocin is one of the top ten “high-alert medications” in hospitals, and the death of four babies at the Portlaoise Hospital has been attributed to the lack of adequate monitoring.

Children who survive the accelerated contractions have been known to suffer brain damage, and among a series of recent Syntocinon birth injury claims was one in February this year, in which an interim settlement of birth injury compensation amounting to €2.32 million was approved by the High Court.

The State Claims Agency – the authority that pays out when Syntocinon birth injury claims are resolved – recently conducted a study into the use of oxytocin in Irish hospitals, which showed that there is a lack of consistency in how the drug is administered and how the health of mothers and their babies is monitored.

The report revealed that staff at one maternity unit had no guidance on the drug´s use and that at another staff had to refer to a checklist. Thirteen hospitals had similar guidelines – although not entirely consistent, five hospitals had introduced protocols, three had introduced procedures and six relied on policies. Two of the hospitals provided no guidance at all on the monitoring of mothers and babies, and one failed to advise nursing staff on the dosage of oxytocin that should be administered.

Mary Godfrey – the clinical risk advisor at the State Claims Agency – said that the results of the survey were alarming and called for a consistent set of guidelines to be compiled for all birth-inducing drugs to improve outcomes for mothers and babies, and to prevent more Syntocinon birth injury claims being made against the state.

However Ms Godfrey failed to comment on an important area of the report which revealed “No service obtains explicit written consent from women prior to starting them on the drug.” Informed consent is a vital issue for the State Claims Agency to address if it genuinely wishes to prevent more Syntocinon birth injury claims.


Interim Settlement of a Cerebral Palsy Claim Approved

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.


Judge Denies Lump Sum Compensation Settlement

A High Court judge has denied a plaintiff a lump sum compensation settlement, saying that it would be catastrophic if he approved it and the money ran out later.

The plaintiff – Connor Corroon from Mallow in County Cork – had made his appeal to the High Court for a lump sum compensation settlement having twice previously received interim payments of compensation for birth injuries due to negligence.

Connor was born at the Cork City General Hospital in 1995 with cerebral palsy after having been deprived of oxygen in the womb. Now 19 years of age, Connor is permanently disabled, confined to a wheelchair and cannot speak.

Through his mother – Judith – Connor successfully made a claim for compensation against the hospital in 2010 and was awarded an interim settlement of €1.6 million. A second interim payment of compensation amounting to €475,000 was made last year while reports were being conducted into Connor´s future requirements.

Prior to this hearing, Judith had asked the court of her son´s behalf to approve a lump sum compensation settlement on the grounds that Connor had undergone more than twenty assessments in preparation for return visits to court, and that she wanted her son to be able to get on with his life and not have to continually undergo assessments.

However, at the High Court, Mr Justice Bernard Barton denied the application for a lump sum compensation settlement – stating that it would be catastrophic if the court authorised a final payment and the funds ran out. Instead, the judge approved a further interim payment of €1.45 million and adjourned Connor´s claim for another five years.

The judge explained his decision to the family by informing them that he – along with other judges presiding over this type of case – had just received a consultation paper from the Department of Justice relating to legislation for the introduction of structured periodic payments. A proposed Civil Liability (Amendment) Bill was hoped to be passed this year, but could become legislation within the next few months.


Abuse of Care Home Residents Investigated by HSE

Alleged abuse of care home residents at the Áras Attracta care centre is being investigated by the HSE after being exposed in an RTÉ documentary.

The documentary about the Áras Attracta care centre in Swinford, County Mayo, formed part of RTÉ´s Primetime program which was broadcast earlier this week. The documentary was based on secretly recorded video footage which showed staff at the centre slapping, kicking, and physically restraining residents with intellectual disabilities.

The footage had been recorded by an undercover researcher, posing as a work experience student, after a whistleblower had contacted RTÉ with allegations of mistreatment. The researcher filmed the abuse of care home residents in Unit Three of Áras Attracta – a bungalow that is home to three women – which included the women being confined to their chairs for hours at a time.

Before the program was broadcast, RTÉ contacted the HSE – the body ultimately responsible for the standard of care at the centre – who described the actions of the staff portrayed in the footage as “totally unacceptable”. Several staff have been suspended as a result of the HSE´s intervention, and the HSE has also the Gardaí and the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA).

The director general of the HSE, Tony O’Brien, said in a statement: “Much of what was viewed on Primetime falls well below the standards that we expect in the health services. Such standards should not and will not be tolerated in the HSE.” He added: “At the centre of many of these examples of poor practice is individual responsibility of staff members.”

The HSE also issued an apology to the residents of Áras Attracta and their families for the abuse of care home residents that had taken place. The statement continued that the HSE did not wish to “pre-empt the findings of an independent investigation” but that it has taken a number of immediate actions to “guarantee that a safe and caring environment exists for the residents of Unit Three”.

Commenting on the alleged abuse of care home residents, Kathleen Lynch – Minister of State at the Department of Health – “I refuse to believe Áras Attracta is the only place where this is happening. We are looking at what other processes we can put in place.” A spokesman for the minister said later that the HSE had allocated €1.3 million towards setting up safeguarding and protection teams in order that allegations of abuse were fully investigated.


Government Announces New Symphysiotomy Redress Scheme

The government has announced a new symphysiotomy redress scheme to compensate women who underwent symphysiotomy and pubiotomy procedures between the 1940s and 1980s.

Almost a year after the government´s U-turn on extending the Statute of Limitations for women who had undergone symphysiotomies and pubiotomies during childbirth, a new redress scheme has been announced for the estimated 350 survivors of the procedures.

The new symphysiotomy redress scheme consists of a three-tier compensation package which will pay damages to the survivors depending on the level of injury they sustained:

  • Women who can demonstrate that they underwent a symphysiotomy are entitled to recover €50,000.
  • Women who suffered significant disability as the result of a symphysiotomy will be able to claim €100,000
  • Women who underwent a symphysiotomy after giving birth by Caesarean Section are entitled to €150,000

Former High Court Judge Maureen Harding-Clark has been appointed to assess each claim and, to qualify for the new symphysiotomy redress scheme, victims have to apply before Friday 5th December (In exceptional circumstances, Judge Harding can extend the deadline by a further 20 working days).

Once a claim for symphysiotomy compensation is made, the women have twenty days to accept it; however, under the new symphysiotomy scheme, in order to receive the payment, the claimant must give up any High Court action that is in progress.

Currently there are more than 150 claims for symphysiotomy compensation before the High Court and, according to Marie O’Connor – chairwoman of Survivors of Symphysiotomy group – two dates for High Court hearings have already been fixed.

Ms O´Connor is not happy with the new symphysiotomy redress scheme and claims that the short time limit makes it “impossible for women to seek independent advice and to make a considered decision”. She recommends that the victims of symphysiotomy speak with a solicitor, apply for the maximum amount they entitled to under the redress scheme and continue with their legal action.

Mark Kelly – Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties – also expressed his displeasure with the proposals for symphysiotomy compensation. He said that the redress scheme falls short of what is required under Ireland´s human rights obligations.

Following a complaint by the Survivors of Symphysiotomy group to a UN Human Rights Committee earlier this year, Mr Kelly said the committee recommended that the “perpetrators of symphysiotomy” should be brought to justice and the victims should receive “fair and adequate compensation and rehabilitation on an individual basis”.

Mr Kelly alleges that the new symphysiotomy redress scheme fails to meet the criteria of the UN Human Rights Committee on two counts – that it does not address compensation on an individual basis, and that payments made under the redress scheme are made without admission of liability by the state.


HSE Investigates Death of Baby Born at Mullingar Hospital

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has launched an investigation into the death of a baby born at the Mullingar Hospital in County Westmeath in August.

A spokesperson for the HSE confirmed that an investigation is being conducted into the death of the unnamed baby; who was born on 16th August at the Mullingar Hospital, but who died six days later after being transferred to the neo natal unit of the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin.

Few details have been released about the investigation, although the spokesperson also confirmed that the parents of the child were involved in what the HSE are referring to as an “incident”. The spokesperson said that “The HSE incident policy is being followed and a full and thorough investigation into this tragic event has commenced”.

While few details have been released into the death of the baby born at the Mullingar Hospital, a similar investigation is being conducted at the Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise – a hospital within the same group – where seven babies are now believed to have suffered a perinatal death due to negligence since 2006.

An initial investigation into the level of care at the Portlaoise Hospital found serious failings in the hospital´s maternity unit and prompted an apology from the Department of Health to the parents who had lost babies. The current investigation is being conducted by the Health and Information Quality Authority (Hiqa) and includes medical experts from both Ireland and the United Kingdom.

The HSE spokesperson added that the hospital extends its sympathy to the family following the death of their baby born at the Mullingar Hospital.


Compensation for Teenager´s Birth Injury Approved in Court

A settlement of compensation for a teenager´s birth injury has been approved in court after a judge agreed it would be difficult to prove full liability.

Emma O´Donnell (16) from Aklow in County Wicklow was born at the National Maternity Hospital on 9th June 1998. Hours after her birth by suction, Emma started to have seizures and turned blue. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and has been cared for solely by her father – James Forde – since her natural mother was institutionalised in 2007 suffering from a significant bi-polar condition.

Emma needs round-the-clock care, suffers from an intellectual disability and has behavioural problems. On her behalf, James Forde made a claim for compensation for a teenager´s birth injury, but encountered difficulties establishing causation between the treatment Emma had received and negligence before and after her birth.

Emma´s solicitors had attempted to recover €9 million in compensation for the teenager´s birth injury, but the hospital and Health Service Executive placed value on the claim at €6 million – and only then if full proof of negligence could be established. Eventually a compromise was agreed in which the claim would be settled for €3 million provided it was approved by a judge.

Consequently, at the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns was told the tragic case of Emma´s life to date. He heard that the case had been brought so late in Emma´s life due to difficulties with liability and that the hospital had provided a letter of consent to a settlement of compensation for a teenager´s birth injury amounting to €3 million.

Judge Kearns agreed with Emma´s solicitors that it would be a hard case to prove if the claim went to a full hearing, and he approved the settlement of compensation for a teenager´s birth injury – describing the care that had been provided by James Forde as “heroic”.


NHS Settles Mother´s Claim for Failure to Treat DVT

An NHS Trust in Northern Ireland has settled a mother´s claim for a failure to treat DVT at the start of a hearing at the Crown Court in Belfast.

The unnamed mother from Belfast gave birth to her first child at the Ulster Hospital in June 2009 at the age of thirty-five. Soon after the birth of her child, she developed deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and when she attended the hospital´s A&E Department was told that the swelling and tenderness in her leg was due to hormone activity.

The woman had two further children, and on each occasion had to undergo surgery subsequent to each delivery to relieve the symptoms of DVT. She now has to wear support tights, finds it exhausting to walk for longer than fifteen minutes and has difficulty ascending stairs. She also lives with the fear that if a blood clot develops in her leg, the leg may have to be amputated.

After speaking with a solicitor, the woman made a claim for the failure to treat DVT against the South Eastern Care and Social Health Trust – the NHS Trust responsible for the Ulster Hospital – in which she alleged that she was not properly assessed as being at risk of DVT – despite her age placing her in the high-risk category.

She claimed in her action that if she had been properly assessed, she would have been prescribed medication to prevent the condition from developing. She also alleged a failure to treat symptoms of DVT when she attended the Ulster Hospital after the birth of her first child.

The South Eastern Care and Social Health Trust only acknowledged the failings in her care at the eleventh hour – just prior to a hearing getting underway at the Crown Court in Belfast. After apologising to her, the NHS Trust agreed a settlement of the claim for a failure to treat DVT amounting to £400,000.


Woman Allowed to Claim for Adverse Reaction to Steroids

A Cork woman has been granted permission to pursue her claim for an adverse reaction to steroids against the pharmaceutical company Pfizer after a High Court hearing.

Lorna Savage (43) from Cobh in County Cork started taking the steroid Deltacortril in 1997 when it was prescribed for her by her GP Dr. Michael Madigan and her consultant Dr. MG Molloy to treat vasculitis – a condition which damages blood vessels and causes a rash.

After using the steroid, Lorna developed a more serious condition – Avascular Necrosis – which results in the interruption of the blood supply causing bone tissue to die and the bone to collapse. By 2001, Lorna had to have both knees and a hip joint replaced. She is now confined to a wheelchair and relies on morphine to manage the continual pain she suffers.

Having sought legal advice, Lorna made a claim for the adverse reaction to the steroids; alleging that its manufacturer – Pfizer – had failed to provide adequate warning in the literature accompanying the tablets that their continued use could cause Avascular Necrosis, and that the company had failed to warn her about drinking alcohol when taking the steroid.

Lorna also made a claim for an adverse reaction to steroids against the estate of Dr Madigan (who died in 1999) and the Southern Health Board – who employed Dr Molloy at the Cork University Hospital – alleging that both doctors were negligent in prescribing the treatment for her, had failed to investigate her symptoms appropriately or suspect that she was developing Avascular Necrosis.

All three defendants denied their liability for Lorna´s adverse reaction and, in a pretrial motion, lawyers representing Pfizer attempted to get Lorna´s claim for an adverse reaction to steroids thrown out on the grounds of “an inordinate and inexcusable delay” in bringing her claim.

However, at the High Court, Mr Justice George Birmingham dismissed the application to strike out Lorna´s action – finding that the time lapse was excusable because Lorna had undergone multiple surgeries recently and had found it impossible to brief her solicitors. Judge Birmingham also noted that Avascular Necrosis is a well-established but rare side effect of Deltacortril and he said the case would be listed for a full court hearing later in the year.


Family Receive Compensation for Failure to Diagnose Cancer

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”.


Compensation for Missed Knee Fracture Approved in Court

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.


Court Approves Compensation for Delayed Delivery

The High Court has approved an interim settlement of €1.5 million compensation for the delayed delivery of a young girl who now has cerebral palsy due to the hospital´s alleged negligence.

Mary Malee (14) was born on 11th October 1999 by emergency Caesarean section at the Mayo General Hospital after there had been a delay in finding a consultant gynaecologist to assist with the delivery and an alleged breakdown in communicating her foetal distress.

As a result of the hospital´s alleged negligence, Mary is confined to a wheelchair after being born with cerebral palsy and now needs full-time support from her family. Despite her handicap, Mary is a bright and popular girl, who aims to go to university.

Mary made a compensation claim for the injuries she sustained through her mother – Maura Malee of Swinford, County Mayo – alleging that there had been a failure to intervene and perform a Caesarean section delivery in a timely manner when it became apparent that the foetus was suffering distress and likely to need resuscitation.

Mayo General Hospital and the Health Service Executive (HSE) both denied their liability for Mary´s cerebral palsy; but agreed to an interim settlement of compensation for a delayed delivery amounting to €1.5 million, with a further assessment of Mary´s needs to be conducted within two years.

At the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard that Maura Malee had attended the consultant gynaecologist who had delivered her three previous children three days before Mary was born. The gynaecologist had informed Maura that he would be unavailable for Mary´s delivery, as he was about to undergo treatment for cancer. However, he had told Maura that arrangements would be made for her to be transferred to another consultant.

Maura saw her family doctor the following day, and he told Maura to go to hospital immediately as she was showing symptoms of pre-eclampsia. Maura was admitted to Mayo General Hospital and transferred to the labour ward, where she underwent a CTG shortly before 6:00am which revealed a series of decelerations.

The first consultant that was called was unavailable to attend Mary´s birth, and second consultant arrived shortly before 7:00am. Allegedly there was a failure to communicate the severity of Maura´s condition, and the Caesarean delivery did not take place until after 7:20am.

In court, after Mary had read out a statement in which she commented “It would have been appreciated had the HSE/Mayo General Hospital said they were sorry”, Judge Irvine approved the interim settlement of compensation for a delayed delivery and adjourned the case.


Judgement Reserved in Test Result Mix-Up Claim

Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon has reserved judgement in a test result mix-up claim for compensation in which a woman was incorrectly told she had the HIV virus.

Judge O´Hanlon at the High Court heard that Michelle Kenny (35) from Crumlin in Dublin had returned from a  holiday in Majorca feeling unwell and – on 17th August 2010 – attended the St James Hospital in Dublin, where she underwent an ECG and blood tests, and had an x-ray taken of her chest.

Michelle was kept in hospital for a week as doctors believed she may have a blood clot on her lung, but was discharged on August 23rd to await the result of a blood test for TB. When she returned to the Outpatients Clinic on October 6th for an assessment, Michelle also underwent a blood test for HIV.

The following week, Michelle´s doctor rang her to say that, although she was clear of TB, her HIV test result had indicated positive. Three further tests showed that a mistake had been made, and that Michelle was not at risk from the HIV virus; however, as Michelle told the court, “I was devastated. I thought I was going to die, that I had no future.”

After an investigation revealed that the doctor at St James Hospital had given her the wrong person´s results, Michelle sought legal advice and made a compensation claim for nervous shock against the hospital – alleging that the news, albeit wrong, had stopped her socializing and caused a change in her lifestyle.

St James contested the test result mix-up claim for compensation on the grounds that Michelle had not suffered any loss or damage. They argued that Michelle had been told quickly after the mistake had been identified that she did not have HIV and denied that she was entitled to any compensation for a test result mix-up.

After hearing arguments from both sides, Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon said she would reserve judgement on the claim for test result mix-up compensation for a later date.


Judge Resolves Claim for Hospital´s Lack of Care after Birth

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.


HSE Admits to Errors in Care at Birth – But Fails to Apologise

The High Court has been told that the HSE should apologise for errors in care at birth that resulted in a young girl suffering from dyskinetic cerebral palsy.

Grace Orchard from Carrigaline in County Cork was born on 23rd February at St Finbarr´s Maternity Hospital in Cork shortly after her mother – Deidre O´Callaghan – had been given syntocinon to help bring on contractions.

According to the evidence presented at the High Court, the drug had been administered inappropriately and, as a consequence, it took four attempts to deliver Grace – including one using a vacuum cup – before she was eventually delivered with the use of forceps.

Due to the trauma she had endured, Grace had to be resuscitated after her delivery, and her face, head and forehead were badly bruised due to the force that had been used. Grace was subsequently diagnosed with dyskinetic cerebral palsy was attributed at the High Court to “appalling poor handling” during her birth.

Through her mother Grace (now seven years of age) claimed compensation for errors in care at her birth against St Finbarr´s Hospital and the Health Service Executive (HSE). The HSE admitted liability for Grace´s injuries just two weeks before a schedule court hearing was due to commence.

At the High Court, Mr Justice Daniel Herbert was told that the claim for errors in care at birth was before him to be assessed for the level of damages that should be awarded to Grace. Judge Herbert was told by Grace´s counsel that the circumstances of her birth were tragic and that the HSE were yet to apologise for the injuries she had suffered.

The Court also heard that Grace´s family had done everything they could for her after she was born – including taking her to a specialist centre in New York for physiotherapy – and that Grace had been accepted into mainstream school where she was in the first class, but the services available to her at the school are being reduced due to cut-backs.


Delayed Birth Injury Compensation Approved in Court

A €4 million settlement of delayed birth injury compensation has been approved in favour of a thirteen year old girl at the High Court in Dublin.

Katie Martin from Trim in County Meath was born at the Coombe Hospital in Dublin in November 2000 after her mother – Fiona – had arrived at the hospital very early in the morning complaining of having irregular contractions.

A CTG trace was performed on the expectant mother and – according to Katie´s solicitor – the trace produced abnormal readings that indicated Katie was being starved of oxygen in the womb. However, it was nearly an hour and a half before an emergency Caesarean Section was organised and, when Katie was born, she had suffered a cardiac arrest and displayed no signs of life.

The medical team were able to resuscitate Katie, but she had suffered severe brain damage due to a lack of oxygen prior to her delivery which has left her requiring constant care for the rest of her life.

Katie made a claim for delayed birth injury compensation through her mother against the Coombe Hospital – which denied its liability for her injuries, and argued that Katie was starved of oxygen in the womb before her mother arrived at the hospital, and there was nothing that could have been done to prevent her brain damage.

However, at the High Court in Dublin, Ms Justice Mary Irvine was informed that a €4 million settlement of compensation for a delayed birth injury had been negotiated without admission of liability from the hospital, and that the case was before her for approval of the settlement.

The judge was told the circumstances of Katie´s brain damage – and that the hospital had prepared a full defence against the claim – before approving the settlement and commenting that it was a good one considering that the Coombe Hospital had contested the claim.


Family Hears Apology for Hospital Death due to Dehydration

A family attending a High Court hearing have heard a statement read to them apologising for their mother´s hospital death due to dehydration.

The family of Eileen Brady were in court to hear the apology as closure to their compensation claim for a hospital death due to dehydration following the tragic loss of their mother at the Cavan General Hospital in January 2010.

Eileen (65) had been referred to the Cavan General Hospital by her GP after she had been diagnosed with a poor fluid intake which was manifesting in mouth ulcers. Eileen was admitted to the hospital on 5th January, but died the following day due to multiple organ failure.

An investigation into her death revealed that the dehydration treatment Eileen had been admitted for had been ineffective, as her veins had collapsed due to the chemotherapy treatment she was undergoing in a Dublin hospital to treat her stomach cancer.

The investigation also revealed that Eileen´s hospital death due to dehydration could have been prevented if her medical charts had been examined more closely, if senior physicians had been consulted as Eileen´s condition deteriorated or if the Cavan General Hospital had liaised with the Dublin hospital at which Eileen was receiving her treatment for cancer.

Eileen´s son – Martin Brady from Crosskeys in County Cavan – sued the Cavan General Hospital and Health Service Executive (HSE) on behalf of the family, claiming that Eileen´s avoidable hospital death due to dehydration had caused the family mental distress. The HSE admitted liability and a compensation settlement was agreed out of court, subject to the family receiving a public apology.

At the High Court, the HSE´s legal representative read out a statement in which the hospital and the HSE apologised for the negligent care which resulted in Eileen´s death, and the subsequent grief and stress that had been suffered by her family and friends.

Responding on behalf of the family, Aidan Brady said he hoped that both Cavan General Hospital and the HSE had learned from “the grave mistakes” made in the care of his mother “and that no other family would have to go through the trauma and distress that we have suffered”.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine closed the hearing after extending her personal sympathy to Eileen´s family.


Perinatal Death Due to Negligence Exposed by RTE Program

An RTE Prime Time program has exposed four cases of perinatal death due to negligence at the Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise.

The program “Fatal Failures” featured the tale of Roisin and Mark Molloy from Tullamore in County Offaly, whose son Mark died soon after his delivery January 24th 2012. The couple fought a four-month battle to have an investigation launched into their son´s death – during which time they were fed misinformation into the circumstances of his delivery.

When an independent clinical review was subsequently concluded, it reported that “failures in the standard of care provided were casually linked to the foetal hypoxia damage that occurred [and the death of baby Mark]” – effectively that Mark had suffered an avoidable perinatal death due to negligence.

The Midland Regional Hospital issued the Molloy´s with an apology and told the couple that neonatal deaths at the hospital were extremely rare. However, by chance, Roisin Molloy heard a radio interview in which a Shauna Keyes was retelling the story of how she had lost her child at the Midland General Hospital in similar circumstances, and the two women got in touch with each other.

However, as the RTE Investigation Unit discovered, there were at least two further incidents of perinatal death due to negligence, which had been investigated internally at the hospital, but the grieving parents never been advised of the outcome. The RTE investigators also found that none of the measures that had been recommended following Mark Molloy´s death had been implemented.

Appearing in the program, Dr Philip Crowley – the National Director of Quality & Patient Safety at the Health Service Executive (HSE) – said that the delays in investigating Mark Molloy´s death and implementing procedures that would avoid perinatal death due to negligence were “lamentable” and he apologised on behalf of the HSE for the trauma the families had been through.

The Minister for Health – Dr James Reilly – also commented on the findings of the RTE investigators. Speaking on the Today radio program he said he had asked the Chief Medical Officer to conduct a further investigation into the failings of care at the hospital and described the four cases of perinatal death due to negligence as “utterly unacceptable”.


Minister Aims to Reduce Health Service Negligence Claims

The UK´s Secretary for Health has stated that he wants to reduce health service negligence claims by having those responsible for medical errors acknowledge their mistakes and apologise to patients.

Jeremy Hunt´s comments came in a press interview after new guidelines were sent to every hospital in England and Wales recommending that doctors and nurses “say sorry” in circumstances where there had been a failure in the duty of care. The Health Secretary suggested that medical professionals in the health service are reluctant to apologise because of the fear of litigation.

His views were echoed by Catherine Dixon, chief executive of the NHS Litigation Authority, who said that “Saying sorry is the human and moral thing to do. We won´t say that we are not going to cover you [in the settlement of health service negligence claims] because you´ve said sorry. We are not like a car insurer who will withhold a claim because an apology has been given. Saying sorry is not an admission of legal liability”.

Mr Hunt cited the University of Michigan as an example of how the approach works. The University is one of the safest medical centres in the United States and has seen the number of medical negligence claims for compensation halve in the past decade after adopting the practice of “apologising and learning when you are wrong, explaining and vigorously defending when we are right, and viewing court as a last resort”.

The Health Secretary tweeted that the University of Michigan´s approach was an “interesting example of how being open and saying sorry could slash the litigation bill. [We] want to see similar results in the NHS”. He also revealed that half the health service negligence claims received by the NHS Litigation Authority were “without merit”.

Nonetheless, recent figures have shown that the number of health service negligence claims received this year is expected to increase by 25 percent to 12,000, and that around 20 percent of the health service´s annual budget (approximately £22 billion) is being set aside to pay compensation to thousands of people who have suffered a loss, an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition due to poor medical care.


Settlement of Claim for Fatal Hospital Errors Approved at Court

A family from Dromahair in County Sligo have heard the settlement of their claim for fatal hospital errors approved in the High Court following the death of Dhara Kivlehan three years ago from avoidable multiple organ failure.

On 20th September 2010, Dhara (29) was admitted to Sligo General Hospital for the delivery of her first child after having experienced painless contractions for two days. Dhara was two weeks passed her due date and, on examination, was exhibiting signs of pre-eclampsia – high blood pressure and fluid retention around her ankles (also known as oedema).

Blood taken from Dhara showed that she had abnormal kidney and liver function (a further symptom of pre-eclampsia), but no action was taken due the results of the blood tests not being communicated to Dhara´s doctors for twelve hours. The morning following her admission, Dhara gave birth to her son -Dior – by Caesarean Section and was transferred to a side room off of the main Maternity Ward.

While Dhara was in the side room, her condition started to deteriorate, but it was not until 4.45pm the following day that she was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit at Sligo General Hospital. At 11.00pm that evening, Dhara´s condition became critical and she was air-lifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast to receive specialist treatment.

Dhara died four days later due to multiple organ failure secondary to HELLP syndrome – a variant of pre-eclampsia – but, as yet, both the Belfast coroner and the Sligo coroner have declined requests to conduct a post-mortem.

Dhara´s husband – Michael – believing that the symptoms of haemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and a low latelet count were not identified and treated in time to prevent his wife´s death, made a compensation claim for fatal hospital errors against the Health Service Executive (HSE) – alleging that the Sligo general Hospital had breached its duty of care and that the care provided for Dhara once she had given birth to Dior was negligent.

The HSE denied that there had been a failure in the duty of care by Sligo General Hospital in the treatment that Dhara had received, but Michael persevered with his claim, and a court hearing was scheduled to determine whether the HSE had a case to answer.

Shortly before the claim for fatal hospital errors was due to be presented in court, the HSE acknowledged that there had been shortcomings in the care provided for Dhara both before and after the birth of her son, and an €800,000 settlement of compensation for fatal hospital errors was negotiated.

At the High Court in Dublin, the family heard a statement read out to them in which the HSE apologised unreservedly for the errors that had been made which led to Dhara´s death and offered their condolences to Michael and Dior.

Following the apology, Ms Justice Mary Irvine approved the settlement of compensation for fatal hospital errors, and also used the opportunity to criticise the HSE for “holding out until almost the bitter end” before admitting liability, and consequently causing the Kivlehan family unnecessary distress.