Thalidomide Group Happy with Ruling to Allow Discovery of State Documents

A legal hearing has been adjourned at the High Court until November following the filing of several thalidomide compensation claims.

Producers of the German drug Grünenthal GmbHT, which was introduced t the market as a sedative in Germany in 1957, are facing 26 compesation cases which have been brought brought against them and their Irish distributors TP Whelehan Son & Co, and the Ministers for Health and Environment – all of the whom deny the claims.

Claim have been submitted allegin that the drug caused deformities in unborn children when it was prescribed to their pregnant mothers. The claims relate to incidents that occurred dating back to the 1960s.

The High Court is currently reviewing whether the cases are statute-barred.

At the High Court yesterday the cases returned before Mr Justice Seamus Noonan, who has stated his unease about “the slow pace” of the proceedings. He (Judge Noonan) ruled on several requests issued by the defendants that the plaintiffs further particularise and answer questions about certain aspects of their claims.

The defendants taking the compensation case argue that they require the information from the plaintiffs in order to fully address the claims that are being taken against them. The judge agreed with this assertion and directed that the details smust be provided before  the matter returns before the court for further case management on 7 November.  Additionally Judge Noonan said that  the plaintiffs had a right to seek to discover documents from the State as part of their claim.

When the matter returns before the court in November Judge Noonan is due to deal with other preliminary matters, including the discovery of relevant material and issues over expert reports. Earlier the court was advised that lawyers for the plaintiffs claimed there were difficulties in obtaining medical histories and related files in order to progress the cases.

In a previous statement read out to the High Court, a spokesperson for Grünenthal said the company was “deeply sorry for what happened to those affected by the thalidomide tragedy. It’s important for us that we engage in efforts to improve the situations of those who are still living with the impact of these latter effects. We set up the Grünenthal Foundation to provide benefits in kind and financing for individual projects for those affected. Since its establishment, the Grünenthal Foundation has also approved more than 1,000 applications for individualised support in Germany and internationally.”

A spokesperson told the High Court that the Department of Health “can’t comment on an issue that’s the subject of ongoing litigation”.

John Stack, chairman of Thalidomide Ireland, which supports the claims, said the group was pleased to learn that the plaintiffs had a right to discover State documents as part of their case.


€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.


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.


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.


Court Hears Claim for Black Eye Injury Compensation

The Circuit Civil Court has awarded €6,000 to a university student from University College Dublin after hearing their claim for black eye injury compensation.

Bernadette Poleon from Dunboyne in County Meath volunteered to participate in a clinical acupuncture training course in April 2010 that was being run by the Irish Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Dublin.

One of the exercises during the training course involved a medicine student inserting needles below each of Bernadette´s eyes. After the student´s placement of the needles was examined by a course supervisor, the needle below Bernadette´s right eye was repositioned – but the needle below the left eye remained where it was.

Later the same day, the skin surrounding Bernadette´s left eye became swollen and puffy and, within a few days, significant black and yellow bruising had developed around the eye. The swelling and puffiness disappeared several days later, but the black and yellow bruising around Bernadette´s eye lasted a further seven weeks.

Bernadette also developed a sinus problem after attending the acupuncture training course – for which she is still receiving medical treatment from her GP – and, after seeking legal advice, she made a claim for black eye injury compensation against the owners of the Irish Institute of Traditional Chinese Medicine – Bellfield Consultants Ltd.

Bellfield Consultants Ltd contested the claim for black eye injury compensation and prepared a full defence against the claim when court proceedings were issued. However, before the case was scheduled to be heard by Judge Jacqueline Linnane at the Circuit Civil Court, the judge was informed that – by consent – the case was now before her for the assessment of black eye injury compensation only.

After hearing the circumstances of how Bernadette sustained her injury, and the embarrassment she had experienced while the eye injury was still visible, the judge awarded Bernadette €6,000 in settlement of her claim for black eye injury for compensation.


10,500 Euros Award for Medical Accident to Infant

A four year old child, who sustained a burn injury to his foot in a medical accident when he was just a few days old, has had a compensation settlement of 10,500 Euros approved in the Circuit Civil Court.

Fabien Napierski of Kinlough, County Leitrim, was just four days of age when the medical accident occurred at his home in 2007. A nurse, who was warming his foot prior to conducting a blood test, used water from a recently boiled kettle without first testing its heat.

Circuit Court President, Mr Justice Matthew Deery, heard that the Health Service Executive had agreed to pay Fabien 10,500 Euros in compensation for the medical accident without admission of liability and the case was before him for approval of the settlement.

After hearing the facts of the claim, and considering the amount of the award, Mr Justice Matthew Deery approved the settlement as was presented to him.


Clinical Indemnity Scheme Criticised for Granting Anonymity

The Clinical Indemnity Scheme has been criticized in The Irish Times today for granting anonymity to medical professionals. The State Claims Agency has operated the Clinical Indemnity Scheme since 2002 for all medical malpractice cases taken against hospitals and doctors. The State Claims Agency ‘assumes responsibility for the vicarious negligence by act or omission on the part of doctors, nurses, midwives and allied healthcare professionals”

The State Claims Agency has advised solicitors that it is ‘neither necessary nor appropriate” to include the names of doctors in medical malpractice documentation.

This means that negligent doctors are effectively protected from public record unless the lawsuit is heard in the High Court.  The vast majority of medical malpractice cases, like most other types of personal injury cases, are settled prior to going to court .

This effectively means that medical professions are granted anonymity for their negligent actions.


Claims Agency Admits Four Fatal Hospital Drug Blunders

The State Claims Agency, which oversees the clinical indemnity scheme on behalf of the healthcare system, has revealed that four hospital patients died between January 2004 and December 2010 after they were administered medication to which they had a known allergy.

Figures released earlier this year also showed that 35,310 incidents involving medication were recorded in the seven year period – a number of which led to patients becoming ill and having to be admitted to hospital intensive care units.

Although 95 per cent of these did not result in any patient harm, there were 124 medical negligence claims in Ireland solely attributable to adverse or allergic reactions to a known allergen, and the State Claims Agency has urged medical practitioners to ensure patients do not have an allergy before prescribing or administering treatment.

According to studies made on behalf of the State Claims Agency and Health Service Executive, the errors are occurring due to the complex way medicines are administered – with often a dozen steps being required before a single dose of medication is delivered to a patient.

However patient lobby groups claim that despite the acknowledgement of more than 5,000 medication errors each year, patient treatment incidents are under-reported in Ireland – a view shared by “Patient Focus”, who claim that the scale of the problem has not been accepted by the medical profession.


“Duty of Candour” May Force Clinical Error Admissions

A member of a High Court working group, commissioned to investigate provision for the victims of catastrophic injury and chaired by Mr Justice John Quirke, has announced that the working group is considering the introduction of pre-action protocols to reduce the financial burden to the State of clinical negligence compensation claims.
Mr Michael Boylan was speaking in Dublin at a conference on catastrophic birth and child injuries organised by the charity “Action Against Medical Accidents”. He said that a legal “duty of candour” should be introduced to require medical practitioners to advise a patient as soon as they are aware that a clinical error as occurred.
Quoting from a Health Service Executive report, Mr Boylan stated that there was evidence to suggest that patients often forgave the clinical error when it is disclosed promptly, fully and compassionately, and not only would this action reduce the trauma and distress of patients and their families upon discovery, but also reduce the amount of legal costs arising from contested medical negligence actions.
The first proposal from the working group was contained in a report published in November 2010. The report recommended that people who sustain catastrophic injuries would benefit more from periodic compensation payments than one lump sum. Mr Boylan hoped that the report would be acted upon and legislation introduced, although he acknowledged that the overall cost to the State could be greater and feared that this might prevent it from being adopted into law.


Wenicke Korsakoff Claim

A woman, who developed Wenicke Korsakoff psychosis after alleged negligence by her surgeon, has settled her claim for medical negligence for an undisclosed sum.
Avril Doyle (46), of Loughlinstown, County Dublin, was described to Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill at the High Court as a bubbly and vivacious person prior to undergoing a laparotomy to treat multiple abdominal adhesions at St Michael’s Hospital, Dún Laoghaire in July 2005.
Avril was discharged ten days after her operation, but had to re-admitted for further surgery on August 2 2005 after her condition deteriorated. Another laparotomy was performed, during which part of her small bowel had to be removed.
It was alleged that, during this procedure, medical staff failed to administer the vitamin thiamine as part of Avril’s intravenous feeding and she suffered brain damage as a result. It was claimed in the action brought through Avril’s husband, Dick, against the Health Service Executive and consultant surgeon Joseph Duignan, that staff failed in their duty to monitor, test and review her “total parental nutrition” management.
As a consequence of this alleged negligence, the court heard how Avril developed memory problems, became increasingly disorientated and suffered impairment to her cognitive linguistic function – a symptom commonly witnessed in cases of dementia.
After treatment at the National Rehabilitation Hospital, Avril returned home in April 2006 to be cared for by her husband and, more recently, by a specially employed care assistant. Avril continues to have problems with dizziness, fatigue, emotional fits and depression.
One week into the trial, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill was informed that the claim had been settled for an undisclosed figure and without admission of liability except for the failure to provide a nutritionist at the hospital during the surgery.


HSE Acknowledges Errors in Gardai Sergeants Death

The Health Service Executive (HSE) has issued a public apology in the High Court, to the family of a Garda sergeant who died after giving birth to twins at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda, County Louth.
Tania McCabe (34) of Termonfeckin, County Louth, was admitted to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in March 2007, after her waters broke when only six months pregnant. Tania was attended to by consultant obstetrician, Shane Higgins, who discharged her after only one night’s observation.
Tania went into labour and was re-admitted to Our Lady of Lourdes the following day, where she underwent an emergency Caesarean section to deliver her twin boys. One of the twins, Zach, had severe congenital abnormalities and died in Tania’s arms shortly after his birth. It was then discovered that Tania had suffered a post-partum haemorrhage and, despite emergency surgery, Tania died the following day
In an action brought by Tania’s widower, Aidan (41), her eldest son Ben (6) and the surviving twin Adam (4), it was claimed that the HSE and Shane Higgins were negligent in failing to properly diagnose his wife’s waters had broken, wrongfully discharging her from hospital and not diagnosing she was in septic shock when readmitted.
Liability was admitted by the defendants, and the case was brought before Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill in the High Court for assessment of damages only.
Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill approved an undisclosed settlement for husband Aidan, in respect of mental distress, shock, loss, damages and expenses. The two boys had settlements approved for 200,000 Euros each, and Tania’s mother, Barbara Corcoran, also had an undisclosed sum approved for her claim of nervous shock.


Million Euro Award in Tragic Wrong Drug Poisoning Case

The widow of a man who was administered the wrong drug to treat a case of poisoning, has had a compensation settlement of 1 million Euros approved in the High Court. Colm O’Donovan (31) of Dunmanway, County Cork, had become ill in August 2005 with suspected food poisoning, and his wife, Patricia, had called the South Doc out of hours medical service. The doctor with the service gave Colm an injection of Cyclamorah, but the following morning his condition had deteriorated. Colm collapsed as he tried to get out of bed and started to suffer seizures.
Patricia once again contacted South Doc medical service, and this time Colm was attended by Dr. Johan Dirk van der Meer. Dr. van der Meer diagnosed that Colm’s seizures were a reaction to the first drug and administered an injection of Largactyl – claiming that it would control the seizures. Instead, Colm’s condition continued to deteriorate and, shortly after being attended by his GP the following morning, suffered a heart attack and died.
It was claimed in the subsequent action against South West Doctors On Call Ltd, trading as South Doc, of St Finan’s Hospital, County Kerry and Dr. van der Meer that Dr. van der Meer had failed to conduct a full examination of Colm. This, it was alleged, would have revealed a serious illness for which Colm could have received treatment in hospital. It was also alleged that by administering the injection of Largactyl, Dr. van der Meer accelerated a serious illness which eventually lead to Colm’s death.
Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill heard in the High Court that liability had been admitted by Dr. van der Meer and the action against South Doc was struck out. Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill was also told that an agreement had been reached between Colm’s family and the negligent party for a compensation settlement of 1 million Euros, which he was satisfied to approve.


Soldiers File Anti-Malaria Drug Compensation Claims For Lariam

Soldiers, who suffered from the side effects of the anti-malaria drug Lariam, are seeking compensation from the State for neuropsychiatric side-effects, brain damage and motor-neurone disorders. The drug was given to Irish soldiers who were deployed in Chad and Liberia while serving with the UN, despite it being known to have serious side effects such as depression, anxiety and forgetfulness. It is also alleged in the claims filed against the State, that the soldiers were prescribed the drug even though their army medical files indicated that it was unsuitable for them.
Lariam is a trade name for mefloquine – a drug which is used to prevent and combat malaria in areas where mosquitoes have developed a resistance to the more commonly used chloroquine – and, as it needs to be administered only once a week, is preferred to alternative mefloquine anti malaria alternatives. However, the potential side effects are well chronicled.
In the United States, Lariam was banned for distribution amongst the Armed Forces in 2009 after it was linked with a series of suicides by Special Forces soldiers in 2002 and following a series of complaints from veterans who have suffered both psychological and physical side effects – which in numerous cases did not surface until many years later.
The Defence Forces have confirmed that ten serving soldiers are undergoing treatment for possible side effects of Lariam, but this could be just the tip of the iceberg, as several thousand Irish soldiers have served in the area in the past few years. Indeed, only last month, it was revealed that the Department of Defence had increased their compensation budget by almost 50% (to 6 million Euros) to allow for an anticipated increase in the number of claims from soldiers who had been administered Lariam.


Five Year Old Cerebral Palsy Girl Awarded 1.3 Million Euros Interim Settlement

Five year old Kate Murphy of Fethard, County Tipperary is to receive an interim compensation payment of 1.3 million Euros after South Tipperary General Hospital admitted failings during her delivery process.
In an action brought through Kate’s mother, Sarah Murphy, against the Health Service Executive, South Tipperary General Hospital and Raymond Howard – a consultant obstetrician/gynaecologist attached to the hospital – Mr. Justice John Quirke heard at the High Court how alleged negligence and a breach of duty had left Kate with serious brain injuries.
No exact details of the events that occurred in September 2005 were revealed in court, as the hospital had already admitted liability and the case was before Mr. Justice John Quirke for the settlement to be approved. However, it was made clear that the consequences of the hospital’s alleged negligence left Kate suffering from cerebral palsy and requiring lifelong care.
Approving the compensation settlement, Mr. Justice John Quirke commented that the inclusion of 450,000 Euros for general damages was grossly inadequate and “nothing could compensate” for the trauma experienced by Kate and her family. He then adjourned the case for two years on the basis that there was an agreement in place that future care costs would be covered by a system of periodic payments, once new legislation to cover such cases had been introduced.


Failure to Diagnose in Opera Singer Case costs HSE Over 2 Million Euros

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.


“Inexplicable” Delay Doctor Liable for Birth Injury Damages

In a High Court ruling, consultant obstetrician, Dr. Raymond Howard, was found liable for a 3.75 million euro compensation settlement, previously agreed in the case of Nicole Hassett of Clonmel, County Tipperary. Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill heard how Dr. Howard had delayed the birth of Nicole in 1997 with “absolutely no apparent reason”, causing her to suffer brain damage during the late stages of labour, and resulting in Nicole, now 13, suffering from cerebral palsy and being severely disabled.
The court was told how Dr. Howard was in St Joseph’s Maternity Hospital, Clonmel, from 12.15am on the morning of November 15. 1997, and should have delivered Nicole by 12.30am. However, he delayed the birth until 1.00am, during which time Nicole suffered the great bulk of her brain damage due to being left in the rigours of intense labour.
However, after hearing the circumstances of the “simply inexplicable” delay, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill ruled the HSE was entitled to be indemnified by Dr Howard due to his failure to adequately perform his duties and his breach of duty of care towards the child which was the proximate cause of her injuries.
The original court action was brought through Nicole’s mother, Orla, in 2005, and settlement was agreed against the South Eastern Health Board (now the Health and Safety Executive – HSE) with Dr. Howard and the UK-based Medical Defence Union as third parties.


Medical Negligence Victims Should be Cautious With New HSE Complaints Procedure

The Health Service Executive (HSE) is launching a new complaints procedure called  “Your Service, Your Say” that is aimed at obtaining both positive and negative feedback.  The HSE is presumably looking for opportunities to improve the health service. The HSE is aiming to provide a 30-day turnaround on complaints.

There was a 63 percent increase in complaints in 2009, with the total reaching 8,000.  Interestingly, despite the surge in complaints, the director of advocacy in the HSE, Mary Culliton, still believes there is under reporting of complaints due to patient’s reluctance to question medical decisions.

While the general principle of collecting feedback with the objective of improving services is an extremely positive development for the HSE, patients should be cautious regarding medical negligence and other types of hospital negligence.   The prudent approach is to speak to a solicitor before making any accusations regarding medical malpractice. It’s not just a question of defamation, but also because the victim may wish to make a compensation claim at a later date.


Judge Approves 2 Million Euro Compensation for Birth Acquired Cerebral Palsy

Mr. Justice John Quirke has approved a €2 million High Court settlement in the birth injury case of Sean Walsh of Naas, County Kildare, against the The Coombe Women’s Hospital in Dublin. In the claim against the hospital, it was alleged that when Sean´s mother was admitted to the hospital for the birth of her son on November 18 2003, the hospital failed to take account of abnormalities showing on a CTG trace during her labour. Consequently, the delivery proceeded without the assistance of forceps, resulting in the alleged likelihood of umbilical cord depression. It was further alleged that Sean was born with severe permanent disabilities and was noted to have quadriplegic cerebral palsy at the age of eighteen months. Despite The Coombe Women´s Hospital denying the claims, Mr. Justice John Quirke approved the settlement without admission of liability.

As child injury compensation settlements have always to be approved in court, Mr Justice John Quirke used the opportunity to pay tribute to Sean´s parents for their perseverance. Sean, who is now seven years of age, had sued the hospital through his mother Nuala, and an application has been made to make Sean a ward of court.


Jury Returns Verdict of Medical Accident

A jury at the coroner’s court returned a verdict of death by “medical accident” in the case of Louise Butler at the Mid Western Regional Hospital in Limerick on November 16th, 2006 from a large subarachnoid haemorrhage, one month after she was mistakenly diagnosed with a migraine.

The wrong diagnosis occurred despite the family of the 21-year-old victim repeatedly requesting a brain scan.

The Jury has recommended that patients who present at hospitals with persistent and severe headaches should receive Cat scans  as soon as possible.

The Health and Safety Executive had already apologised in the High Court in July during proceedings and also made  a compensation payment to the family of Louise Butler.


Medical Council Clears Doctors of Medical Malpractice for Removing Wrong Kidney

A Medical Council fitness-to-practice committee ruling has attracted significant media comment over the past few days in the case involving the removal of the wrong kidney from a young child. After hearing most of the evidence in the case, the committee had decided to invoke Section 67 of the Medical Practitioners Act 2007 that allows doctors to undertake not to repeat their errors while avoiding being found guilty of professional misconduct. The incident occurred at Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin, in March 2008 when junior doctor Sri Paran, under the supervision of Professor Martin Corbally, removed a perfectly healthy kidney while leaving in place a barely functioning kidney.

The young boys’ parents, Jennifer Stewart and Oliver Conroy, repeatedly asked hospital staff to confirm which kidney was scheduled to be removed before the operation.  Despite this, it was revealed that nobody had reviewed the X-rays that were available in the operating theatre before the operation. The boy, now 8 years old, is left with a right kidney with 9 per cent functionality, leaving him requiring regular dialysis until he obtains a kidney transplant.

Professor Corbally immediately met with the parents of the boy and apologised.

This type of medical error happens all the time as is known as a “wrong-site operation”.  The problem is mainly due to poor procedures in operating theatre, where surgeons seem to resist the ‘checklist’ approach to operations that are common in other professions.  A good example is the pre-flight checklist used by all pilots all over the world, where they check even the most obvious things like fuel levels and radio signals.

Since there were no proper checklists in place for a kidney removal operation, there was no medical malpractice resulting from not following the non-existent checklist.  It was a simple case of human error.


New HSE CEO Can Reduce Medical Malpractice Claims

There has been much commentary in the media about the new Health Services Executive (HSE) chief executive Cathal Magee facing a difficult first year implementing significant budget cuts. However, he also has a significant challenge changing the internal staff culture of the HSE, which was most recently criticised by the Ombudsman for its “rotten culture of secrecy” when dealing with medical malpractice.

Cathal Magree should start by reading the paper in August 17th issue of the Annals of Internal Medicine about a program launched by the University of Michigan Health System that encouraged health workers to report medical mistakes. The program included a procedure for telling victims about errors, who exactly made the error, what steps were made to prevent similar mistakes in the future, and mostly importantly, making a sincere apology to the patient or family. The procedure also included a process for offering fair compensation.

Reporting and explaining errors honestly to patients obviously leads to faster resolution of disputes, but also reduced the number of lawsuits by 36%.


Family Awarded 40,000 Euro for Hospital Negligence

A High Court settlement of €40,000 was approved by Mr Justice Michael Peart as compensation for  the distressed family of Ms Louise Butler, aged 21, of Cappa Lodge, Sixmilebridge, County Clare.  Louse Bulter died at Limerick Regional Hospital on November 16, 2006.

The settlement and apology followed a hospital negligence claim, which the HSE had initially denied. The claim was brought against the Health Service Executive (HSE) by Ms Butler’s brother James Butler, on behalf of his family, who insisted that Ms Butler would have lived if she had received proper medical care at Limerick Regional Hospital,

Between October 6-12, 2006, Ms Butler sought help at the hospital for an unbearable headache. Her family and doctor strongly urged the hospital to provide her with a CT cat scan prior to her leaving the hospital. Ms Butler was discharged on October 12 without having received a CT cat scan.  The hospital eventually did provide a CT cat scan for Ms Butler on October 13 that  showed massive bleeding in her brain. The family claimed that this came too later because Ms Butler collapsed and died before receiving the results.

Medical experts testified that if the scan would have shown the need for immediate treatment if it had been provided earlier.

The HSE apologised to the Butler family and admitted medical failures and deficiencies had contributed to Louise Butler’s tragic death.


Hospital Negligence Case Settled for 1.65 Million Euro

The High Court has approved an interim settlement of €1.65 million for Charlotte Barry of Sandymount, Dublin, against the National Maternity Hospital.

It was claimed in court that the hospital failed to properly manage the labour, delivery and birth of Charlotte, who suffered hypoxic-ischaemic insult resulting in cerebral palsy. The young child now requires constant care.

The case was taken by Charlotte’s mother, Aisling Campbell, as her ‘next friend’. The hospital admitted full liability.

Although the compensation payments system is under review, there is not yet any legislation in Ireland that allows for staged payments.  The case has therefore been adjourned for two years on the understanding that the €1.65 million interim payment will be made immediately.


Hiqa Survey Reveals Dissatisfaction with Healthcare Services in Ireland

A survey by Red C on behalf of the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) has found that over 40 percent of Irish people feel that healthcare services they or their families have received are below the expected standards. The survey statistics were obtained using a representative sample of over 1,000 adults.

But only one third of the people that were dissatified with the healthcare they received actually made a complaint about the below-standard level of care.  One of the primary reasons was that 52 percent felt too intimidated to make a complaint. Over 80 percent of survey respondents said it was difficult to know where to make a complaint. The actual number of complaints received in 2009 by the Health Services Executive (HSE) was 7,984  which is an increase of 63 percent on 2008.

Hiqa is preparing draft national standards for better and safer healthcare that will eventually apply across the entire health sector.  The Hiqa survey found that 99 percent of people wanted to be informed when there was a problem with their treatment so it seems likely that Hiqa will propose better disclosure procedures in the new national standards. It remains to be seen if the HSE, which has a reputation for secrecy, will accept a more open approarch to patient disclosure when it comes to medical negligence.


At least 19 Wrong Body Part Operation Errors in HSE Hospitals

Investigative journalists at the Irish Independent have revealed there has been at least 19 wrong body part errrors by surgeons  in  Health Service Executive (HSE) hospitals between 2005 and 2010.  Wrong body part surgical errors, sometimes called wrong-site surgeries, occur when a surgeon operates on the wrong part of a patient. The surgical errors in the HSE hospitals included operations on the wrong eye, ovary, kidney, leg, hand, and finger.

The HSE has already paid six hospital negligence claims as a result of the wrong body part operations, including a case where a surgeon in Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin removed the wrong kidney of a boy in March 2008, leaving him requiring dialysis until he gets a kidney transplant.

Ireland has operated a centralised database since 2000 to which all adverse clinical incidents must be reported.  The data on wrong body part errors came from this database. The system means that while patients may not be fully informed and aware that they suffered some sort of clinical incident while receiving treatment in an Irish hospital, the error will be reported and logged in the centralised database.


Medical Professor Slates HSE for Stalinism

Professor John Crown, a consultant oncologist, writing recently in The Irish Independent, said that the HSE and Department of Health and Children together “comprise one of the least ethical organisations that I have ever dealt with”. Professor Crown goes on to describe the HSE as “secretive, self-serving, dishonest, incompetent and unintelligent.”  He concludes, with an interesting historical comparison, that the “corruption and incompetence” of the HSE is effectively a form of Stalinism.
These comments are interesting from the point of view of anyone trying to make a medical negligence claim or hospital negligence claim related to one of the HSE’s services.  The management problems that increase the likelihood of negligence are compounded by the way the HSE deals with its own negligence.  It’s really no surprise that the Injuries Board Ireland refuses to deal with cases against the HSE.


Family Receives 564,000 Euro Compensation for Hospital Death

The family of Miriam Jackson of Navan, County Meath, has received a €564,000 High Court settlement following her death in September 2004 in Our Lady’s Hospital, Navan, two weeks after being admitted with a small bowel obstruction. The case was taken by her husband, Derek Jackson, who also sued on behalf of his three children for damages for the loss of Mrs Jackson and the resulting mental distress. The lawsuit outlined over twenty claims of medical negligence and hospital negligence – mostly an unfortunate list of ignored symptoms. It was alleged that that urine analysis results were ignored – results that found an E coli infection and therefore septicemia was allowed develop and go untreated for a significant period of time. It was alleged that Mrs Jackson complained of abdominal pain and was feverish. It was claimed that her rising temperature was ignored by the surgical team. It was alleged that a medical consultation requested by the surgical registrar did not take place, despite multiple symptoms, including a temperature of 38.2 degrees, chest tightness, shortness of breath, and light-headednes.
The hospital admitted liability in the case, so the High Court case under Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill was only to determine the amount of compensation.


State Claims Agency Data Shows 15,000 Slips, Trips, and Falls in Irish Hospitals Annually

A report today for the Irish Patients Association by the State Claims Agency shows that there are an average of 15,000 slips, trips, and falls in Irish hospitals, using data from the past 6 years.  The State Claims Agency data reveals that about 40% of hospital incidents are falls.

About  300 patients fall in Irish hospital showers each year, some of whom suffer fractured bones, although only about 1 percent of  patients sustained multiple injuries. Approximately one-quarter of patients who fell in showers suffered either bruising, lacerations or fractures.

Most accidents occur when patients are not under supervision and in at least one Irish hospital poor drainage leaves the shower facilities permanently flooded and therefore slippery. This certainly exposes Irish hospitals to medical negligence claims.


Medical Incidents in Irish Hospitals May Cause Thousands of Deaths Annually

Jim Reilly of Patient Focus has claimed today that international figures show that 4-16% of patients in hospitals are exposed to “potentially dangerous adverse events”.  Mr Reilly was speaking at a conference organised by the charity Action Against Medical Accidents. Peter Walsh, chief executive of Action Against Medical Accidents, claimed that more people are killed or permanently disabled in hospitals due to medical incidents than were injured in road traffic accidents.

State Claims Agency data for 2008 reveals that there were 83,661 “adverse incidents” recorded by Irish hospitals, where an medical incident could range from something as simply as slips, trips, and falls to more serious treatment errors such as medication errors.

The figures include both major and minor incidents ranging from slips, trips and falls to medication and treatment errors.  The figures also demonstrate how badly exposed the Irish health services are to medical negligence claims and hospital negligence claims.

Data from the State Claims Agency reveal that there were 8,250 ‘medication incidents’ (incorrect dosages or simply wrong medication given to patients), some 5,559 ‘treatment incidents’ (which includes mistakes like leaving surgical swabs in patients’ bodies after operations), and poor documentation (which lead to anything from a simple ‘near miss’ to a catastrophic incident).

The State Claims Agency runs a clinical indemnity scheme for Irish hospitals that paid out almost €50 million in medical negligence claims and hospital negligence claims last in 2009, with an average award of  €63,000.