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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.”