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High Court Awards Compensation to Family of Man Left in a Coma

The High Court has awarded €550,000 in compensation to the family of a man who was left in a coma due to the failure of medical staff to correctly diagnose his organ failure.

In 2011, Robert Bolton-who was seventy-one at the time of the incident-underwent an operation on his oesophagus. The procedure was initially determined a success. However, the next day, he suffered from respiratory failure and had a heart attack.

He was immediately transferred to intensive care by medical staff. Robert’s condition continued to deteriorate. Because of his sepsis, Robert suffered from a hypoxic ischaemic brain injury, leaving him in a coma. Since 2011, Robert has only been minimal consciousness on a small handful of occasions.

Robert’s wife, Angela, sought legal counsel to seek compensation for her husband’s injuries. She was concerned about the care her husband received during and after his operation, as well as during his stay in the intensive care unit at the hospital. She proceeded to make a claim against the hospital for their failure to diagnose her husband’s organ failure. She claimed that the medical staff who were responsible for her husband did not adequately diagnose Robert’s sepsis. Furthermore, they did not adhere to the criteria of systemic inflammatory response.

The defendants-the hospital at which Robert underwent the procedure-denied full liability for his injuries. However, they did admit partial liability regarding the substandard level of care Robert received at the facility.

The two legal teams began to negotiated the terms of the compensation settlement that would be offered to Robert.  An interim settlement of compensation amounting to €550,000 was determined to be adequate for the level of injuries sustained. This figure would pay for two years’ worth of the specialist care Robert now requires.

However, as the claim was being made on behalf of someone unable to represent themselves in court, the settlement had to be approved by the High Court. The case was heard by Mr Justice Kevin Cross. The judge heard of how the hospital’s alleged failings lead to the deterioration of Robert’s condition and how it has impacted his family.

Though Angela assured Judge Cross that no amount of money would compensate for what happened to her husband, although she added the it would act as a reassurance that he was getting adequate care. The judge approved the settlement before commenting that it was the result of hard bargaining. He finished by wishing Angela and her family the best for the future.

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Journalist Criticises Implementation of Open Disclose Policy in Ireland

Journalist Catherine Shanahan has written an opinion-editorial for the Irish Examiner which criticises the open disclosure policy created for the Health Service Executive, saying that it has not been adequately enforced in hospitals around Ireland.

In November 2013, the policy was created to dictate when the HSE should tell families when there are issues with the standard of healthcare provided to patients. However, despite being described as “good on paper”, it is yet still not enforced in many of the hospitals nationwide.

Shanahan used the details of seven medical negligence cases that occurred in 2015 and gained some attention by the media. According to Shanahan, the cases she chose-many to do with birth negligence claims-demonstrate how the HSE are extremely reluctant in admitting to their wrongdoings. As a result of the lack of proper disclosure, if patients want to learn the true story of the events they endured, they and their families are forced to go to court. It is usually only then that the HSE will accept liability.

Shanahan examined Gil Russell’s case, which was one of the most well-known because of involvement of with the Sates Claim Agency in delaying her compensation settlement. Born in 2006 with cerebral palsy because of a “prolonged and totally chaotic” delivery which left her deprived of oxygen in utero, Gill and her family brought the HSE to court to seek compensation. It was only then, in 2012, that HSE only issued an apology. At the same time, an interim settlement of compensation was awarded.

The Russell family were back in the High Court in 2014 to be awarded a €13.5 million lump settlement. This was was the largest ever awarded by the state for cerebral palsy, and as such, the State Claims Agency made an attempt to appeal the settlement, stating that it was too much. Their case was later rejected by the High Court. However, they continued to protest, and the case was then taken to the Supreme Court – again depriving Gill and her family of the settlement.

Other cases mentioned in the editorial included Skye Worthington and Katie Manton – both suffered similar circumstances to Gill Russell, and both waited for years to receive an apology from the Health Service Executive for their mismanaged births.

The opinion-editorial made a clear and concise argument that the open disclosure policy is not being applied in Irish hospitals, and more strict regulation is needed. It further stated that the money put towards public and doctor education concerning the policy was a waste of government funds.

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Death of Newborn Boy Deemed Due to Medical Misadventure, HSE Liable

The death of a newborn boy at Cavan General Hospital has been deemed due to medical misadventure and the HSE liable, according to the concluding report of an investigation launched into his death.

On the 20th November 2012, Fiona Watters and her partner Francis Flynn attended the Cavan General Hospital for the birth of their first baby. Fiona’s waters broke on the morning of the 22nd. Prostaglandin was administered by the medical staff in charge of managing the birth. This drug is widely used to speed up labour.

As the day progressed, there was still no sign of the baby. Medical staff regularly increased the dose of the drug given to Fiona. That evening, an attempt was made at a natural delivery, though after an hour, no progress had been made. Dr Salah Aziz, a consultant obstetrician at the hospital, was contacted by the midwives. He was told that several scans-including a heart trace-indicated that the baby was suffering foetal distress, and that he was not yet visible.

When Mr Aziz arrived at the labour ward in the hospital. Despite intending to immediately perform a Caesarean Section on Fiona, he discovered that another Caesarean Section was being carried out in the only out-of-hours theatre. As such, he tried both a forceps and vacuum delivery. However, both of these methods failed. Eventually the operating theatre became available, and Ms Watters had an emergency Caesarean Section. Her baby, named Jamie, was delivered shortly after.

The baby was born in very poor condition, and was quickly transferred to a special care unit in the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin.  He died just two days later in his mother’s arms. An investigation ensued looking into the circumstances of Jamie’s death. This initial investigation was stopped by the High Court in 2013, as Dr Aziz pointed out that the investigators appointed by the HSE did not undertake proper procedures for investigating the death of a newborn child.

An advanced copy of the report was sent to Ms Watters and Mr Flynn. They  sought legal counsel in the hopes of claiming compensation for the wrongful death of their newborn son. After this, they proceeded to make a claim for medical negligence compensation against the Cavan General Hospital and the HSE.

The HSE did not accept any liability for Jamie’s death until twelve months after the claim was made. Upon admitting liability, they ordered another investigation to be carried out. This team was composed of an independent review team, as there were two more deaths of children at the Cavan General Hospital.

In December 2014, this investigation concluded that Jamie’s wrongful death was caused by medical misadventure. The increasingly large doses of Prostaglandin, Dr Aziz’s failure to notify the registrar of Jamie’s imminent birth and the fact that there was only one out-of-hours theatre at the hospital were all listed to be contributing factors.

The State Claims Agency began negotiations with Jamie’s parents in order for the claim of compensation to be settled. A package of €70,000 was agreed upon to compensation them for the intense emotional suffering they endure. This settlement was approved by Mr Justice Richard Humphreys in the Dublin High Court.

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Highest Ever Settlement of Compensation for Cerebral Palsy Upheld by High Court

A panel of High Court judges have upheld the offer of a settlement of compensation awarded to a young girl born with cerebral palsy after the HSE appealed, claiming that the compensation package was too much.

In July 2006, Gill Russell, from Aghada in County Cork, was born in the Erinville Hospital, Cork. However, due to extreme mismanagement of her birth by medical staff at the hospital, she was born with dyskinetic cerebral palsy. Her birth was later described as a “prolonged and totally chaotic” delivery in court.

Karen, Gill’s mother, sought legal counsel to claim compensation for her daughter’s injuries. She made a claim for birth injuries due to medical negligence compensation against the hospital and the Health Service Executive.The defendants admitted liability for Gill’s condition, and an interim settlement was awarded to the family by the High Court in Dublin. The case was adjourned for assessment of her future needs.

In December 2014, the case was heard by Mr Justice Kevin Cross of the High Court in Dublin. A final lump sum of €13.5 million was approved by the judge. This was the largest award ever made by the court for a cerebral palsy claim. The settlement was appealed by the HSE and the State Claims Agency. They argued that Judge Cross had used too low a rate of interest to calculate the return investment of the lump sum, and therefore the settlement of compensation was far too high.

The case was heard earlier this month at the Court of Appeals, by a panel consisting of three judges. After both parties made their case, they upheld the settlement of compensation. The judges argued that using a higher rate of interest – which the HSE argues is normal for the court – would result in a severely disabled person taking “unjust and unacceptable risks” by investing their lump sum to safeguard their financial security.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine was one one of the three judges on the panel. After the hearing, she commented that it was not the purpose of the courts to decide how a claimant was going to invest their award when determining its value. The judge also commented that, had the government succeeded in passing legislation that would allow structured, periodic payments, the HSE would not be in this situation. 

However, despite the Appeals Court’s ruling, the case is unlikely to be resolved, and the family are likely to end up back in court. The State Claims Agency have warned that the case could set a precedent that could cost the insurance industry up to €10 billion over the next ten years, The HSE have also indicated that they will likely take the case to the Supreme Court. Returning to court means that the family will have to do without the much-needed settlement of compensation for an even longer period of time.

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Seven Women Claim for Negligent Hysterectomies Against Private Clinic

A group of seven women have made claims against a doctor in a private clinic regarding the hysterectomy procedures they underwent their, as they claim their doctor was guilty of medical negligence.

A total of seven women have made claims for negligent hysterectomies against Dr Peter van Greene. Dr van Greene used to work at the Aut Even Hospital, a private facility in Kilkenny, between 2009 and 2011. Dr van Greene was recently before the Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise Committee, which found that he was guilty of two counts of poor professional performance. The claims for negligent hysterectomies were made by the women before this hearing took place.

Helen Cruise and three other anonymous women were amongst those who made claims against the doctor. Helen claims that her hysterectomy was performed without her informed consent, and that she would not have opted for the procedure had she been offered more information. Since the operation, Helen has been suffering from bouts of depression.

Speaking at the Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise Committee, Helen alleged that the procedure, the long-term effects, any risks  involved, were only explained to her by Dr van Greene after she had been administered with a spinal anaesthetic. Therefore, she was not in a fit state of mind to decide to have the procedure done. Furthermore, Helen needed six units of blood needed transferred to her after the procedure, as she was bleeding excessively.

The hearing also included details of how Dr van Greene had applied for bankruptcy in the United Kingdom, as he is currently unemployed. In spite of being under investigation for his conduct, he began working at the Whitfield Clinic in Waterford.

However, despite his declaration of bankruptcy, the women making claims against him should still be able to claim for compensation. Any settlements that will be awarded will be paid for by Dr van Greene’s medical indemnity insurance company. The results of the hearing should be available later this year.

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HSE Admits Liability for Death of Newborn “Six Years Too Late”

The HSE has admitted liability for the death of a newborn, stating that their staff had indeed mismanaged her birth. The baby’s parents have rejected the apology offered by the HSE, stating that it was “six years too late”.

In February 2009, Caoimhe Mulcair was born at Limerick’s Midland Regional Hospital. Her parents, Joan and John, had been struggling to have a child for many years, and were delighted when their baby girl was born. Shorly after she was born, a midwife noticed that Caoimhe’s cry was abnormal for a newborn. Concerned about her condition, Caoimhe then transferred to the hospital’s special care unit for specialist attention. In spite of this, she died just thirty-nine minutes after her birth in her mother’s arms.

Joan and John sought the advice of a solicitor to seek compensation for the death of their newborn baby. They made a claim for medical negligence compensation against the Health Service Executives (HSE) and the Midland General Hospital. They alleged that the hospital failed to act after Caoimhe’s foetal heart rate was noted as slow when a scan was taken just before she was born. This negligence resulted in her being starved of oxygen in utero. However, the HSE disputed these allegations until September 2014, at which time the Mulcairs were offered an undisclosed settlement of compensation.

Earlier this month, a court in Limerick ruled that Caoimhe had died because of medical misadventure. An independent medical professional provided evidence that a slow foetal heart lead to the deprivation of oxygen to her brain. During the hearing, Collette Cowan, Chief Executive of the Midland Regional Hospital, read an apology to Joan and John for their daughter’s death.

This apology was rejected by the couple, who told reporters that it was delivered “six years too late”. Once the inquest had finished, John told reporters that whilst the couple were fighting for a compensation settlement, the HSE issued no apology and that it was shameful that the HSE “an ordinary decent family through the pain and torment we had to endure for over six years”.

Later, a spokesperson for the HSE clarified that it was the State Claims Agency, not the HSE, that handled compensation disputes. However, a columnist for the Irish Times was not impressed by this “passing of the buck”, writing that “A common interest links the HSE and the claims agency and there has been a persistent pattern of denial, prevarication and years of unnecessary delay in dealing with medical claims. The public and aggrieved patients deserve better. So do the vast majority of medical professionals.”

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Compensation Offered to Family of Teenager Born a Spastic Quadriplegic

The HSE has offered a settlement of compensation to the family of a teenage boy who was born a spastic quadriplegic due to medical negligence surrounding his birth.

Thomas O’Connor was born at the Sligo General Hospital in September 1996. Medical staff in charge of his birth diagnosed him with foetal distress in utero after completing several routine scans. Due to his condition Thomas was delivered by emergency Caesarean section. However, he was not breathing when he was born and his heart had stopped. The baby was resuscitated with a breathing tube. Due to his brain being deprived of oxygen, he sustained severe brain damage. He was later diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic.

His mother sought legal counsel to seek compensation for her son’s injuries. In the claim for birth negligence compensation, Thomas’ mother alleges that the delivery of Thomas and his subsequent resuscitation was negligent. Thomas was starved of oxygen on two separate occasions, which caused severe brain damage that has rendered him disabled. In addition to being a spastic quadriplegic, Thomas is also blind, and can only eat through a tube. He is reliant on twenty-four hour care.

Ann O’Connor, on her son’s behalf, made the claim against the Sligo General Hospital. The claim alleges that Thomas’ delivery was delayed by up to four hours without justifiable cause. She also states that the heart attack that Thomas suffered whilst on his way to the Intensive Care Unit was a direct result of medical staff inserting the resuscitation tube too deeply into Thomas’ throat.

The defendants-the Health Service Executives (HSE) denied all liability for Thomas’s injuries. As there was a dispute of liability, the case was scheduled to be heard in the High Court of Dublin. Mr Justice Kevin Cross oversaw proceedings. Expert witnesses testified that, though a CTG trace showed obvious indications of an elevated foetal heart rate, it had been discontinued the morning of Thomas’ delivery. Additionally, they said that the tube had been inserted to a depth of 14 cm, despite guidelines outlining it should be inserted to a depth of 9 – 10 cm.

The judge was also informed that negotiations between the parties had resulted in a settlement of €1.75 million being offered to Thomas’s family. However, the HSE still denies liability. Judge Cross approved the settlement, commenting on his delight that the ordeal of claiming compensation was complete for Thomas’ family. The money from the settlement will be used to pay for Thomas’ care in a residential care home in Sligo.

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€9 Million Settlement of Compensation Awarded in Birth Injury Case

A judge has approved a settlement of compensation of €9 million the birth injury case of a tetraplegic girl.

Alex Butler was born at the Waterford Regional Hospital in April 2005. Due to undiagnosed complications with her birth, she was born “blue and lifeless”. As the doctor in charge of Alex’s birth-who was a stand-in for her mother’s regular obstetrician-did not diagnosed these complications despite obvious signs, there was a delay of ten minutes in her delivery. 

Alex was started of oxygen in the womb due to the delay. She sustained severe brain damage, and has been left disabled for life. Despite this, Alex was described as a child with a“bright personality with a huge intelligence” in court. She was later diagnosed as tetraplegic, and she relies on a wheelchair for movement. She will be dependant upon 24 hour care for the rest of her life.

Her parents sought legal counsel. Acting on behalf of her daughter, Sonya Butler made a claim for Alex’s birth injuries against the Health Service Executive and Waterford Regional Hospital. The defendants acknowledged liability for Alex’s injuries. Negotiations began between the two legal teams, and an interim settlement of compensation was offered in 2013. It was hoped that a structured settlement of periodic payments could be introduced in Ireland so a lump sum would not have to be paid. The case was adjourned for two years for such a system to be created.

However, the government has failed to implement such legislation required for such a periodic settlement. As such, the family returned to the High Court for approval of a lump sum. The case was heard by Mr Justice Anthony Barr.

A representative of Waterford Regional Hospital read an apology to Alex and her family, expressing their regret and grief over Alex’s conditions. However, after this the parties could not agree as to how much compensation Alex was entitled to due to her severe disabilities. 

The parties continued to negotiate the settlement for over a fortnight after the initial hearing. Eventually, an agreement was reached, resulting in a €9 million lump sum being offered to the family. As the case was in regards to a minor, a judge had to approve the settlement to ensure it was in her best interests. Judge Barr in the High Court  approved the settlement, claiming that the settlement was both reasonable and fair. 

Alex’s parents were shocked and disappointed at the protracted negotiations. Sonya spoke to the press, openly criticising the State Claims Agency when speaking with reporters after the announcement of the settlement: “They fought tooth and nail. 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.”

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Judge Awards Compensation to Woman After Swab Left Inside of Her

A High Court judge has awarded compensation to a woman after a vaginal swab was left inside of her following the birth of her child at the National Maternity Hospital.

Claire Lalor, from Swords in Co. Dublin, was admitted to National Maternity Hospital in December 2012 to give birth. Following the delivery, Claire and her baby were deemed healthy, and they were discharged three days after being admitted. However, Claire began to experience extreme pain in her abdomen, and was suffering from a malodorous vagina. She returned twice within to hospital within two weeks seeking treatment. 

Both times she returned to the maternity hospital, the staff on hand failed to have Claire internally examined. On her second visit, the doctor prescribed her with antibiotics to clear they suspected a bacterial infection which she contracted post-birth. However, the antibiotics did nothing to alleviate her suffering, and the smell became worse. Claire continued to experience severe pain. On the 16th January she returned to the hospital. This time, she was internally examined. A vaginal swab was discovered to have been left inside Claire after her labour. 

Medical staff at the hospital immediately removed the swab. In spite of this Claire continued to feel pain and discomfort. She returned to hospital on the 18th January, where she was diagnosed with post-natal depression and subsequently discharged. Her condition deteriorated, and Claire began to experience new symptoms, such as sweating, chills and diarrhoea. 

Claire attended Beaumont Hospital seeking medical attention. After completing some tests, she was told that she had a Clostridium difficile infection. Medical staff said that it was contracted as a result of the unnecessary prescription of antibiotics. They gave her a new prescription, and Claire eventually recovered.

She sought legal counsel before making a claim for compensation because of the trauma and pain she suffered as a result of the swab being left inside her. Liability for Claire’s injuries was acknowledged by the National Maternity Hospital. However, they contested the extent to which Claire suffered psychologically. Their legal team argued that her symptoms could all be attributed to post-natal depression, rather than the trauma, and thus they were not liable. The two legal teams could not negotiate a settlement of compensation for Claire. As such the case proceeded to the High Court of Dublin for an assessment of damages. 

The case was heard at the High Court by Mr Justice Kevin Cross. The judge agreed with the defendant’s legal team in their consensus that the difficult labour was a good indicator that Claire suffered from post-natal depression. He also agreed that her continuing symptoms could be attributed to an underlying condition. 

The judge also commented that Claire received adequate post-natal care, her recovery from post-natal depression would have been faster. He acknowledged that her protracted suffering due to the infection could certainly have made her depression worse. Justice Cross commented Claire was “entirely appropriately extremely distressed” by the experience. Claire was then awarded €140,000 for the injuries and infections she sustained because of the forgotten vaginal swab. 

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Boy Receives Compensation in Inappropriate Use of Syntocinon Case

A boy who was born with dyskinetic cerebral palsy has received an interim settlement of compensation for the inappropriate use of Syntocinon which caused his disability.

In July 2007, Patrick Brannigan-now seven years of age-was born by emergency Caesarean Section to his mother Niamh at Cavan General Hospital. Syntocinon-a drug commonly used to aid women with labour-was administered to Niamh-originally from Monaghan-early in her labour.

A CTG trace was taken by medical staff to assess Patrick’s state in the womb. The results had shown that the unborn baby was in distress in the womb. In such cases, it is strongly suggested that Syntocinon should not be used, as this causes increased foetal distress. However, the drug was given to Niamh anyway. Instead of aiding her labour, it resulted in Patrick being deprived of oxygen in the womb.

Patrick was born severely disabled. Later medical analysis diagnosed him with dyskinetic cerebral palsy. Patrick is now confined to a wheelchair, and is reliant on 24 hour care from his parents. He is unable to communicate verbally, and it has been determined that he shall never be able to live independently of his parents.

Niamh sought legal counsel, and made a claim for the inappropriate use of the synthetic drug on behalf of her son. She claimed that the medical staff at the hospital had mismanaged the birth, thus resulting in Patrick being born disabled. Had they not administered Syntocinon, he would have been born healthy.

The defendants admitted liability for the injury, acknowledging that Syntocinon should not have been administered in that case, given the evidence of foetal distress, and that their staff had been negligent. An apology was issued to the family, and interim compensation of €2.1million was offered as settlement. As Patrick was a minor, such compensation needed to be approved by a judge in court to ensure that it was in Patrick’s best interests.

The case was heard earlier this month by Judge Kevin Cross at the High Court in Dublin. The circumstances surrounding the birth were presented to him, and he heard that Patrick was a cheerful and good-natured boy. As a result, he approved the interim settlement of compensation for inappropriate use of Syntocinon.

Judge Cross adjourned the claim for three years so that Patrick’s future needs could be thoroughly assessed. Judge Cross further stated that he hopes that legislation will soon be passed so that the family could receive periodic payments to settle the claim for inappropriate use of the drug during labour.

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Boy Left Permanently Paralysed Due to Meningitis Medical Negligence

A boy has been left permanently paralysed due to medical negligence he experienced while being treated for meningitis at Wexford General Hospital.

In May 2004, Matthew McGrath (17 months old at the time of the incident) was brought to Wexford General Hospital. His parents were concerned that he was vomiting fluids and was having difficulty staying awake. Matthew was immediately seen by medical staff, and diagnosed with Haemophilus Influenza Type B. This is commonly known to be a precursor to meningitis, and had Matthew been given competent treatment, he should have been administered antibiotics immediately. However, medical staff failed to do this.

Matthew’s condition quickly deteriorated overnight and he went into shock. Despite widely accepted medical guidelines stating that patients in shock should not undergo lumbar punctures, one was performed to confirm Matthew’s case of meningitis.

Due to the resulting pressure on his spinal cord, Matthew was left permanently paralysed. He cannot move his arms or legs and his breathing is assisted by a ventilator. He was kept under medical observation in the hospital for tow years before he finally left hospital and started being cared for by his parents at home. He is reliant on 24 hour care from his parents, and will never be able to live independently.

On behalf of her son, Cathy McGrath sought legal counsel to claim compensation for her son’s injuries. She made a claim for failure to treat her son’s meningitis against the HSE. In the claim, she alleged that if her son had been administered the antibiotics and fluids as required when he initially arrived at Wexford General Hospital, he never would have needed the lumbar puncture, and as a result sustained such debilitating injuries.

An investigation was launched into the failure to treat the meningitis. The HSE admitted liability, and an interim settlement of €3.7 million was negotiated between the plaintiffs and the defendants. Since Matthew is a minor, the compensation had to be approved by a High Court judge before his family could accept it.

Mr Justice Matthew Cross heard the case at the High Court in Dublin. After hearing the circumstances of Matthew’s injuries, the judge approved the settlement. The money is to go towards Matthew’s everyday needs and continual medical treatment. The claim has been adjourned for five years so that an investigation into Matthew’s future needs can be conducted. A full compensation settlement will be negotiated as a result of this investigation.

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Missed Diagnosis of Hydrocephalus in Infant Heard in Court

The case of a missed diagnosis of hydrocephalus in an infant has been heard at the High Court.

In April 2008, Ava Kiernan was brought to see a public health nurse when she was just three months old. Her head had rapidly increased in circumference, and strange bulges had appeared on her skull. The nurse did not diagnose anything wrong with Ava, and released her with a clean bill of health, despite Ava displaying obvious symptoms of hydrocephalus.

Often called “water on the brain”, hydrocephalus is caused by spinal fluid collecting in the skull as a result of it not draining from the brain. It is diagnosed in children under a year old by bulges appearing around the skull, or by the quick increase in the circumference of the head, both of which Ava was showing.

Still concerned for her daughter’s health, Ruth Kiernan brought her daughter to hospital in September that year for another medical check. This time, her skull was measured by medical staff at the facility. However, the measurement was performed incorrectly, and the results it yielded were inaccurate.

Due to the delay in her diagnosis, the pressure of the spinal fluid in the skull resulted in Ava suffering from severe brain damage. Ava is now reliant on her parents for many basic tasks, and his both physically and mentally disabled.

Ruth sought legal counsel on her daughter’s behalf in the hopes of winning some compensation for her daughter’s injuries. She made a hydrocephalus brain injury claim for compensation against the HSE. The claim was contested by the defendant.

Due to the contest in liability, the case was brought to be heard in the High Court by Mr Justice Kevin Cross. The hearing lasted three weeks. After hearing all of the errors made in the diagnosis, the judge ruled in Ava’s favour.

He stated that if there had been the appropriate follow-up examination after the initial nurse visit, or if the measurement of her head in September had been carried out correctly, the hydrocephalus would have been identified and suitably treated. Had it been identified, the judge stated that Ava never would have suffered the brain damage due to the excess of fluid.

The case was adjourned such that a investigation could be launched into Ava’s future medical needs. After the final report is published, the case will return to court such that an appropriate level of compensation can be awarded to the young girl.

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Severely Disabled Young Boy Receives Compensation for Mismanaged Birth

A young boy who has been left severely disabled due to medical staff’s mismanagement of his birth has been awarded an interim settlement of compensation by a High Court judge.

In July 2010, Kevin Dunphy-English of Mooncoin, Co. Kilkenny, was born at the Waterford Regional Hospital. When he was born, medical staff in charge of his birth declared him as “neurologically compromised”. Kevin spent the first three weeks of his life in an intensive care unit. He was later diagnosed with suffering from cerebral palsy. He can only walk for short distances, and he will be reliant on the use of a wheelchair for movement for the rest of his life.

Jane, Kevin’s mother, sought legal counsel and made a claim for his mismanaged birth and resulting injuries on behalf of her son against the Waterford Regional Hospital. In the claim, she alleges that though a foetal blood sample was taken at 1:40 am, there was no record of the foetal heart rate until 2:30 am. She states that there was no justifiable reason for this delay.

Furthermore, the legal action claims that, had medical staff taken another blood sample after the foetal heart rate was detected, the decision to intervene in Kevin’s birth would have been made sooner. An investigation carried out into the allegations of a mismanaged birth discovered that, had Kevin been delivered an hour earlier, he would not have sustained his current injures. They further agreed with Jane’s conclusion that there was no justifiable reason as to why Kevin’s birth was delayed by staff.

The Health Service Executives (HSE) acknowledged that Kevin’s birth was not dealt with to an acceptable standard, and that there was negligence on Waterford Regional Hospital’s part for not delivering Kevin quickly enough. The two legal parties entered negotiations, and they agreed on an appropriate value of compensation for Kevin’s injuries and for the nervous shock suffered by his parents. As the claim was made on behalf of a minor the settlement had to be approved by the courts to ensure that it was in Kevin’s best interests. The case was brought to the High Court to be heard by Mr Justice Kevin Cross.

Kevin met Judge Cross in the judge’s chambers before the hearing started. Judge Cross was told of Kevin’s progress at pre-school, and his parents’ hopes that he will be in a mainstream class when he goes to primary school. Kevin was termed “a lovely little lad” by the judge, and his parents were commended for their dedication to their son.

Kevin was awarded €2 million as an interim settlement of compensation for the injuries he sustained as a result of his mismanaged birth. The case was adjourned for five years by the judge such that an assessment damages could be conducted. Once this has been carried out, Kevin’s parents will be offered either a lump sum or a structured scheme of periodic payments if the legislation is introduced by the government in time.

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New Set of Protocols Proposed to Reduce the Cost of Medical Negligence Claims in Ireland

The Medical Protection Society has released a new set of proposals for protocol changes in the hopes that they will reduce the cost of making a medical negligence claim in Ireland.

The non-profit organisation responsible for providing legal assistance to those working in the medical sector-the Medical Protection Society-has recently published a new set of proposals for “pre-trial protocols”. These were created with the aim to lower the costs of making hospital negligence claims in Ireland. They state that with existing protocol and procedures, there is a significant expenses involved in bringing legal action against the Health Service Executive (HSE), which puts intense strain on both the medical system and the victims and families of those affected.

They suggest that by making communication between the plaintiff’s and the defendant’s legal teams easier, more cases may be resolved before litigation is even necessary. They hope to do this by promoting openness and transparency on both sides. They also want to provide an opportunity for each negligence claim made against the hospital to be fully investigated by independent experts and potentially resolved before litigation is even necessary.

This improved dialogue between sides should lower the costs of medical negligence claims by reducing the amount of adversarial processes. In both England and Wales, solicitors and levied with financial penalties if they go straight to the litigation procedure without first attempting some sort of mediation. If the Medical Protection Society’s proposal is successful, such penalties would not be required as the process will be nearly automatic.

Emma Hallinan-the MPS’s Director of Claims-has suggested that the new set of protocols should first be trialled voluntarily before any legislation is introduced. She states: “We recognise the important role that the MPS must play, and have committed to trialling procedural reform before it is introduced in statute. We are in the process of writing to plaintiff lawyers with large medical negligence practices to request that they work with us to pilot this.”

Among the various proposals put forward by the Medical Protection Society, a tariff of general damages would be introduced. This is comparable to the Judicial College’s “Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases” in the UK. This tariff would act as a scale for compensation awards for specific physical injuries caused by hospital negligence. The range of medical injuries covered by this scale if extensive, including brain damage, surgical errors, and dental damage.

Other general damages-such as loss of amenity and emotional trauma-as well as special damages to replace lost incense and expenses would still require negotiation between parties to resolve. Many who have read the proposals commend the MPS, stating that they are heading in the right direction to lower the costs of making such hospital negligence claims in Ireland.

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Judge Rejects Request for Lump Sum Payment in Cerebral Palsy Case

A High Court judge has rejected a woman’s request for her son’s interim payments of compensation for cerebral palsy to be replaced by a lump sum.

In February 1995, Connor Corroon (now 19 years of age) was born in the Cork City General Hospital. Due to the negligence and errors of the medical staff in charge of his birth, his brain was deprived of oxygen in the womb. As a consequence of this, he has been left permanently disabled. He was later diagnosed with suffering from cerebral palsy. He cannot communicate orally, and is reliant on a wheelchair for mobility.

On behalf of her son, Judith Corroon sought legal counsel and made a claim for birth injuries compensation against the hospital where her son was born. In 2010, Connor became the first plaintiff to be awarded an interim settlement of compensation for catastrophic injuries pending the introduction of structured payment legislation. Last year, he received his second interim settlement of compensation from the HSE.

The government still has not introduced a structured payment scheme for settlements of compensation in medical negligence cases. Connor was due to receive his third payment later this year. However, his mother requested that it be a full, final lump sum. She states that the series of assessments that her son must endure before each court appearance disrupts their attempts at having a normal life. By receiving a lump sum, she would save him this distress.

She explained her case at the High Court, stating that she desired her son’s life not to be filled with these frequent disruptions. She described her son’s existence as being in a “fishbowl”, and said that in spite of his disability, she hoped that Connor would one day be able to attend university.

Despite her plea, Judge Barton denied her request, although he seemed sympathetic to her cause. He stated his reason for the rejection of her case being that if the money from a lump sum payment were to one day run out, it would disastrous for Connor. He approved another interim payment of €1.45 million. To this date, the total paid to Connor for his injuries is €3.25 million.

Justifying his decision, Judge Barton said that he had recently received a consultation paper relating to the proposed Civil Liability (Amendment) Bill. The Bill aims to introduce a system of regular payments next year to better serve plaintiffs with catastrophic injuries. The judge said that a periodic payment system would be in Connor´s best interests, and he adjourned the hearing for a further five years in the hopes that such a structured payment scheme would soon be introduced.

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Experts Dissatisfied with New Scheme for Symphysiotomy Claims

Experts and public figures have expressed dissatisfaction with the government’s newly launched scheme for women making  symphysiotomy claims.

The government has recently launched a scheme to help women claim symphysiotomy compensation. The compensation is for operations performed between 1940 and 1980 on the women without them providing adequate consent. It is estimated that nearly three hundred and fifty women are able to apply for the scheme. The scheme follows after the government changed its stance extending the Statute of Limitations such that women who had unknowingly undergone the procedure during labour could claim compensation.

The symphysiotomy compensation scheme works on a three-tier basis, based on the severity of the injuries that the women sustained. Those who did not sustain any long-term damage are entitled to claim €50,000. Women who sustained a recorded disability because of the procedure can claim €100,000, and those who had previously had a Caesarean Section, and then had a symphysiotomy performed upon them can receive €150,000.

Maureen Harding-Clark, a former High Court judge has been appointed by the government to oversee each claim. The deadline by which the claims must be submitted is December 5th of this year. However, this deadline can be extended by a further twenty days should Judge Harding-Clark deem the case exceptional.

Claimants have another twenty days to accept any offer of compensation after an offer has been made. However, to do this, any action against the state must first be withdrawn by the claimant.

There are presently over one-hundred-and-fifty High Court actions for symphysiotomy claims on progress. However, dates for only two of the hearings have been confirmed. Marie O’Connor, head of Survivors of Symphysiotomy, has expressed her dissatisfaction with the new scheme as the time limit makes it “impossible for women to seek independent advice and to make a considered decision”.

The Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Mark Kelly, is also dissatisfied with the scheme. He claims that it contradicts the state’s obligations to human rights by not addressing compensation needs for each individual and treating them on this tiered basis. Additionally, the compensation is being paid out without any admission by the state of their liability and without an apology being offered to the women affected.

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Teenager Wins Compensation in Birth Negligence Case

A teenager who has been left severely disabled due to negligence surrounding his birth has been awarded compensation by the Dublin High Court.

In November 2001, James McCarthy of Clonmel, County Tipperary was born at St Joseph’s hospital at thirty-three weeks. A scan revealed that his twin brother had died in the womb, and therefore James was delivered by emergency Caesarean section. The baby boy was born with severe disabilities. When he was one year old, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

On behalf of their son, James Cooney and Linda McCarthy sought legal counsel. They made an injury compensation claim the consultant obstetrician Dr Raymond Howard, who was working at St Joseph’s Hospital and who had been in charge of Linda’s care during the later stages of her pregnancy with James.

In the claim, Linda stated that she had been referred to St Joseph’s Hospital for ante natal care and was seen by Dr Howard’s registrar. A scan was conducted and the registrar showed concern over the results. The registrar wanted to admit Linda to hospital immediately for further observation and in concern for the twins.

However, despite the concern, Dr Howard dismissed his registrar’s opinion and told Linda that she was to return to him a week later. She returned, and another scan was taken. This scan revealed that one of the twins that she was carrying had died during that time. This prompted them to deliver James by Caesarean Section immediately. Due to the trauma that James suffered in the womb, he is dependant on his parents for life. He is unable to walk, talk or  even sit up by himself.

Although Dr Howard was her obstetrician, the first time that Linda had actually met was the day after her son had been delivered. She alleged that neither her health not her son’s had been investigated, monitored, diagnosed or treated in an adequate or competent manner in the latter part of her pregnancy. She further claimed that James’ injuries could have been avoided in the doctor had taken greater care.

Dr Howard admitted liability for the young boy’s injuries. As the case was made on behalf of a minor, the case needed to be heard at the Dublin High Court so that a judge could approve the settlement of compensation. Mr Justice Kevin Cross oversaw proceedings, and was informed that an interim settlement of compensation of €2.75 million had been agreed upon by the two parties.

The judge approved this settlement, and adjourned the case for a further three years so that an investigation into James’ future needs could be completed and further settlements of compensation could be calculated.

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Beaumont Hospital Faces Growing Overcrowding Issue

Beaumont Hospital is facing an ever-growing overcrowding issue, due to part to reduction in services at nearby facilities.

Beaumont Hospital Chief Executive Liam Duffy has recently made comments to hospital staff warning them of safety issues at the Dublin hospital and stating that the hospital must regain its stability as a matter of urgency. The comments were communicated to staff via an email circulated to all members of the hospital. In the email, he described the conditions at the hospital as “unsafe” for all those involved. He further pointed out that on the day writing the email in August, there were 58 patients waiting to be discharged at the hospital. This figured included one patient who had been waiting in the Emergency Department for 44 hours.

Mr Duffy blamed the deteriorating state of care at the hospital to an acute shortage of beds caused by patients who are sufficiently fit for discharge, but who are waiting for nursing home beds to become available. The demand for beds resulted in the hospital recording 2,433 occasions during 2013 on which patients were attended to on trolleys. This is the highest figure for any hospital in the country. He further mentioned that, although the lack of beds was of extreme concern, the safety issues at the Dublin hospital were “not confined to a shortage of beds”.

The former Clinical Director of the Beaumont Hospital – Professor Shane O´Neill – resigned in April from his position at the hospital over his concern for patient safety. He said in a public letter of resignation that the volume of psychiatric patients in the overcrowded Emergency department was “entirely unsafe and indefensible”. Professor O´Neill called for the establishment of a dedicated psychiatric assessment area for patients who were suicidal or suffering from extreme psychiatric episodes.

The accident and emergency department at Beaumont Hospital is one of the busiest in the country. This is in part due to a reduction of services at the nearby Navan, Dundalk, Blanchardstown and Drogheda Hospitals. In 2013, nearly 52,000 patients attended the Emergency department and the indications are that that figure is set to rise by the end of 2014.

In August 2011, nurses at the hospital took industrial action to highlight safety issues at the Dublin hospital. At the beginning of 2014, the Irish Nurses’ and Midwives’ Organisation released figures which showed Beaumont Hospital to be the most over-crowded in Ireland. They are calling on the government to act on these figures, both for patient welfare and their own.

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Widower Receives Compensation for Wife’s Avoidable Death

A widower has received a six-figure settlement from the HSE as compensation for his wife’s avoidable death.

In 2006, Helen Malone, originally from Carlow, died at St Luke´s General Hospital in Kilkenny. Her death came just four days after she had undergone surgery on her bowel. The operation had been delayed several times before she finally received the medical attention which she required. An inquest into her death was launched, which revealed that Helen died due to systemic sepsis and multiple organ failure. It was revealed that her injuries were caused by a perforated bowel. The experts conducting the investigation suggested that had the operation on her bowel been performed sooner, there was a strong likelihood that Helen would have survived.

Her widower, Patrick, made a claim for compensation for delayed surgery which resulted in a fatal injury. He claimed in his action against St Luke´s General Hospital, consultant surgeon George Nessim and the HSE. He further stated that the avoidable nature of Helen´s death had caused him and Helen´s six adult children great mental distress.

In 2009, the Irish Medical Council found Dr Nessim guilty on four counts of professional misconduct in relation to Helen´s death. In spite of Dr Nessim’s conviction, the HSE refused to acknowledged liability for failing to meet the appropriate standard of care. Patrick was issued permission to pursue his case in court.

The case was postponed on five different occasions before it was  heard by Mr Justice Ryan at the High Court. At the hearing, Judge Ryan was told that a settlement of compensation for the delayed surgery which resulted in fatal injury to Helen had been negotiated between the parties. The final settlement amounted to €165,000. The judge was also informed that as a condition of the settlement, the HSE had to read an apology to the family acknowledging that the standard of care afforded to Helen was sub-standard and led to a series of events which caused her untimely death.

After hearing the apology read to the family, Judge Ryan approved the compensation settlement .He wished the family well, and commended both sides for settling “a difficult, painful and tragic case”.

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Family Return to Court to Receive Second Interim Payment

The family of a boy suffering from cerebral palsy has returned to court to have their second interim payment of compensation approved.

In February 2006, Luke Miggin from Athboy in County Meath was born at the Mullingar General Hospital. Due to mismanagement of his birth, Luke was deprived of oxygen in the womb. After he was born, Luke had to be resuscitated by medical staff on hand. He was immediately transferred to a special care baby unit. Luke was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He is reliant on full time care from his parents, and has difficulty which even small physical tasks.

On behalf of her son, Emily Miggin sought legal counsel. She made a claim for cerebral palsy compensation against the HSE. In her claim, she alleged that her consultant- Dr Michael Gannon-had failed to act on CTG traces taken throughout the day, which indicated a deceleration of the foetal heart rate.

In 2010, the Health Service Executive admitted their liability for Luke´s birth injuries. In January the following year, an interim compensation payment for cerebral palsy amounting to €1.35 million was offered to the family. As the case was made on behalf of a minor, the settlement needed to be taken to the High Court to be approved by a judge. It was later approved by Mr Justice John Quirke.

Judge Quirke adjourned the case for three years to allow time for a structured settlement system to be introduced. The government has since failed to set up such a system of periodic payments. Emily Miggin returned to the High Court to have a second interim compensation payment for cerebral palsy approved by Ms Justice Mary Irvine.

Judge Irvine apologised to Emily for successive Justice Ministers who had failed to keep their promises to introduce a system of periodic payments, and said that ongoing litigation was preventing her family from getting on their lives.

The judge approved a further €580,000 interim compensation payment for cerebral palsy and adjourned Luke´s case for a further three years.

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Judge Rules that Case Against HSE for Wrongful Death Should Proceed to Court

A High Court judge has ruled that a case made against the HSE for a wrongful death should proceed to a full court case, in spite of the HSE’s claim that the claim was made outside of the period of the Statute of Limitations.

In 2001, Dolores Hewitt was declared healthy after battling with breast cancer for several years. She regularly returned to Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan, Co. Meath to undergo monitoring. In 2007, at one of these routine checkups, two cancerous legions were discovered on her liver.

The scan results were not immediately acted upon by medical staff at the hospital. Dolores only met with a surgeon five months after the scans were taken to discuss the results. Dolores´ conversation with the surgeon prompted further ultrasound scans to be conducted, and further lesions were discovered on Dolores´ liver. Dolores started undergoing treatment for cancer once again. However, due to the failure of medical staff to act promptly to the results of the scan, the condition had progressed too far to respond to the treatment. Dolores died in June 2010.

Dolores’ widower, Joseph, sought legal counsel. He made a claim for wrongful death due to a failure to act on scan results against Our Lady´s Hospital and the Health Service Executive (HSE). He alleged in his action that, had Our Lady´s Hospital acted on Dolores´ scan results within a reasonable period of time in February 2007,  her wrongful death would have been avoided.

Our Lady´s Hospital and the HSE contested the claim for wrongful death due to a failure to act on scan results. They argued that Joseph´s allegations were founded on Dolores´ treatment in 2007, and that his claim for hospital negligence made in 2012 was outside the two-year period Statute of Limitations. This regulation on the time period in which you are allowed to make a personal injury claim was established by the Civil Liability Act of 1961.

The HSE applied to the courts for the claim for wrongful death due to a failure to act on scan results to be dismissed. Joseph´s legal team advised him to oppose the application. Ms Justice Marie Baker heard the case for dismissal at the High Court.

Ms Justice Marie Baker agreed with the HSE´s argument that the time period had expired for claiming compensation for hospital negligence that allegedly occurred in 2007. However, the judge said that Joseph´s the claim for wrongful death due to a failure to act on scan results, related to the death of his wife in June 2010, and therefore his January 2012 claim was still within the period of time allowed by the Statute of Limitations.

She dismissed the HSE’s case, and wished Joseph well in future court proceedings.

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Special Olympics Athlete Receives Compensation for Missed Diagnosis of Knee Fracture

A Special Olympics athlete whose career was cut short has received compensation for a missed diagnosis of a fractured knee, which rendered her unable to compete in the games.

Amy Rose McGowan (31) from Trim in County Meath made her claim for the missed diagnosis of a broken knee following an incident in 2009. Amy, a keen athlete who was training for the Special Olympics, had fallen and hurt her knee during a 50 metre sprint race. She received emergency medical attention on site, and was taken to Our Lady´s Hospital for a precautionary x-ray on May 8th 2009. An x-ray of the region was taken, and further medical procedures followed. However, doctors overlooked the depressed fracture and diagnosed Amy´s injury as soft tissue damage.

Amy continued to experience pain in her knee long after the soft tissue damage should have healed. Months after the initial fall, she attended her GP to seek further medial attention. It was only then that the fracture was discovered. Unfortunately for Amy, it was too late for operative or corrective intervention. She missed her opportunity to qualify for the Olympics. It is likely that Amy will also need to have knee replacement surgery later in life due to the failure to properly treat the injury at the time it occurred.

Amy sought legal counsel, and made a claim for the missed diagnosis of a broken knee. An investigation was launched into the circumstances of her treatment, and after the investigation at Our Lady´s Hospital was complete,  the Health Service Executive admitted liability for her injuries. A settlement of €142,000 was agreed upon as suitable by the two legal teams. However, before Amy could receive the compensation, it first be had to approved in the High Court to ensure that it was in Amy’s best interests.

In the High Court, Judge Peart heard how Amy had previously won 34 medals and 10 trophies in the area of athletics and swimming before the accident. He said he was “very impressed and full of admiration” for her and that it was a pity that her athletics career had been cut short.

The judge approved the settlement of compensation for the missed diagnosis of a broken knee and wished Amy a happy life with her family before adjourning the hearing.

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Disabled Man Receives Compensation for Mismanaged Birth

A man has received compensation from the HSE for his mismanaged birth with left him severely disabled.

In late December 1983, Stephen Ryan-now third years of age-was born at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin to  Linda Ryan. His mother had been admitted to hospital the previous day following the spontaneous onset of labour. She had a history of reduced foetal movement in the pregnancy.

Linda had previously been admitted for five days between 12th December and 17th December because of her condition. She was discharged as healthy and at low risk of complications by medical staff. Linda later alleged that she was discharged without any proper assessment of the risks associated with prolonging the pregnancy being conducted either while she was in hospital or up to the delivery of her son.

As a result of the prolonged pregnancy, Stephen was deprived of oxygen in the womb. He was born severely brain damaged. He was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy. He is severely and permanently mentally and physically disabled, and relies upon 24 hour care from his parents. He will rely on constant care and supervision for the rest of his life.

In 2002, on behalf of her son, Linda sought legal counsel. She made a claim for compensation for a mismanaged pregnancy against the HSE. She alleged that the National Maternity Hospital failed in their duty of care. Had they acted in an appropriate and competent manner, Stephen would have been born sooner and the terrible birth injuries he sustained could have been avoided.

The National Maternity Hospital denied their liability for Stephen´s birth injuries up until the beginning of this year. The two legal teams entered negotiations, and a settlement of €6 million compensation for a mismanaged pregnancy was agreed upon. The HSE made this offer without an admission of liability.

The offer of compensation had to be approved by the High Court to ensure that it was in Stephen’s best interests. The settlement was approved at the High Court by Ms Justice Mary Irvine. The judge said that it had been a long struggle for Stephen´s parents, and she praised the Ryans for the care and attention they had provided for their son in his home environment until he was twenty-four years of age.

Stephen now lives in a residential care unit. Stephen´s parents made a statement saying that they hope this settlement of compensation for a mismanaged pregnancy will enable him to live in his own home with a care package suited to his specific requirements.

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Proposals for Symphysiotomy Compensation Procedures to Be Announced Later this Month

Judge Yvonne Murphy is due to announce her proposals for symphysiotomy compensation procedures to cabinet later this month.

Judge Yvonne Murphy´s recently compiled proposals for symphysiotomy compensation settlements are due to be heard by the Cabinet within the next few weeks. Before their announcement, expert opinion is divided over whether they are beneficial to the survivors of the controversial childbirth procedure.

Judge Murphy was asked by the relevant government bodies to compile proposals for symphysiotomy compensation settlements last year. The request came after the Government withdrew their support for a cross-party private members’ bill that would have provided a window in the Statute of Limitations to allow the survivors to make their claims for symphysiotomy through the court system.

Due to potential legal challenges from insurance companies involved in the case, the Government is looking to introduce an ex-gratia scheme of symphysiotomy compensation settlements for survivors. This is a similar arrangement to that agreed with the former residents of Magdalene laundries. The as around 80 percent of the procedures were performed in private hospitals, the proposals will require support from the insurance industry.

Symphysiotomy survivors are divided on whether the proposed symphysiotomy compensation settlements are appropriate for the degree of suffering they endured. Several hundred Magdalene claimants received payments ranging from €11,500 to €100,000. Much is still now known about how the awarding of symphysiotomy compensation will work. It may be paid out in instalments or in a single lump sum, and the estates of deceased women may or may not be entitled for compensation.

Some survivors of the symphysiotomy procedure have indicated they would accept payments similar to the Magdalene laundry settlements with no admission of liability from the State. However, members of the Survivors of Symphysiotomy (SOS) group say that compensation settlements should be more in line with the award of €591,297 that was made to Tracy Nelson in a court hearing last year.

Spokesperson for the SOS group – Marie O´Connor – said “It’s not unreasonable to insist that cases are treated as medical negligence. These women have lifetimes of suffering and lost opportunities behind them. Whether it was horse-riding, gymnastics or gardening, they could never do it again”.

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HSE Found Negligent in Delay to Treat Post-Surgical Bleeding Case

The HSE has been found negligent in a claim for compensation for post-surgical bleeding, after a judge ruled that the delay in the patient receiving care was unreasonable.

Honey Larkin (42) from Letterkenny delivered her child by Caesarean section at the Letterkenny General Hospital in January 2008. Following her operation, she began to haemorrhage internally. In spite of showing signs of distress, her symptoms were overlooked by the hospital´s staff. Honey alleges that she had a “near-death” experience due to losing more than half of her blood volume while haemorrhaging. She had a second operation to stop the bleeding, but it had been delayed for more than an hour when her condition was finally acknowledged by medical staff.

Honey sought legal counsel, and made a claim against consultant gynaecologist Eddie Aboud and the Health Service Executive (HSE). In the action, she said that she suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to medical negligence. Honey also stated in her action that neither the staff at the hospital nor her gynaecologist checked for signs of bleeding after the initial surgery, and that – when the cause of her distress was identified – there was a failure to attach due significance to the bleeding or act appropriately within a reasonable timeframe.

Both Mr Aboud and the HSE contested Honey´s claim for compensation for medical negligence after a Caesarean birth. They argued that she was treated appropriately throughout and after the birth of her child. Furthermore, they stated that the staff had acted in a timely manner once her internal bleeding had been recognised. However, Honey persisted with her compensation claim for medical negligence after a Caesarean.

In the High Court hearing, Judge Kevin Cross was told that no internal bleeding had been apparent when Mr Aboud had finished the childbirth procedure. Furthermore, when the gynaecologist was called back to attend to Honey, he performed the operation quickly and successfully to stop the haemorrhaging. Judge Cross said he believed that Mr Aboud could not be held responsible for any of the trauma suffered by Honey and dismissed from the case.

The judge then considered whether the case against the HSE should be dismissed. He considered the evidence in relation to the delay Honey experienced once the haemorrhaging had been identified, and he found that the Letterkenny General Hospital failed in their duty of care towards Honey, and ordered that the HSE pay her €25,000 compensation for medical negligence after her Caesarean operation.

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Family Receive Compensation for Wrongful Death of Family Member Due to Dehydration

The family of a woman who wrongfully died in the care of the HSE due to  her dehydration not being properly treated has been awarded compensation in the High Court.

In 2010, Eileen Brady (65) had been admitted to the Cavan General Hospital. Easier that day, she had visited her GP after complaining of mouth ulcers. Her GP had diagnosed that her mouth ulcers were attributable to a poor fluid intake, and referred her to seek emergency medical attention at the hospital. 

At the time of admittance to Cavan General Hospital, Eileen was already undergoing chemotherapy in Dublin for stomach cancer. Due to her veins collapsing as a result of chemotherapy, the dehydration treatment she received at Cavan General Hospital was ineffective. She died the day after being admitted to hospital.

An investigation was launched into Eileen’s death. A report concluded that medical experts determined that Eileen´s death due to organ failure. Furthermore, the experts said that the death could have been prevented had medical staff at the hospital paid closer attention to Eileen´s medical chart. They also noted that had medical staff consulted senior doctors when Eileen´s condition continued to deteriorate, or spoken with specialists in Dublin who were treating Eileen for cancer, Eileen would have received better care.

Following the investigation, Eileen´s son – Martin Brady from Crosskeys in County Cavan – sought legal counsel and made a medical negligence dehydration claim for compensation against the Cavan General Hospital and HSE. He alleged that he and other members of the Brady family had suffered mental distress due to their mother´s tragic and avoidable death.

The HSE admitted liability, and the medical negligence dehydration claim was settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. However, as part of the settlement, the family wanted a public apology read to them in court. Consequently, at the High Court in Dublin, Ms Justice Mary Irvine instructed barristers representing the HSE to read the apology.

The statement said that the hospital and HSE apologised for the failings in their duty of care which resulted in Eileen´s death, and the grief and stress that had been suffered by her family and friends as a result. Responding on behalf of the family, Aidan Brady said he hoped both Cavan General Hospital and the HSE had learned from “the grave mistakes” made in the care of his mother. After the statements were read, Ms Justice Mary Irvine extended her personal sympathy to Eileen´s family and wished them well for the future.

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RTE Program Reveals Negligence at the Midland Regional Hospital

Dr Philip Crowley´s has made an apology was prior to the broadcasting of RTE´s Prime Time “Fatal Failures” program. The program is an exposé of the failings in care at the Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise which resulted in the avoidable deaths of four babies during the last six years.

Acting as the National Director of Quality & Patient Safety at the Health Service Executive,Dr Philip Crowley has made a public apology to four families whose babies died due to childbirth medical negligence at the Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise.

Two of the parents featured on the program are Roisin and Mark Molloy from Tullamore in County Offaly. Their son, Mark, was born at the hospital in January 2012. However, he died shortly after his delivery a consequence of suffering from foetal hypoxia in the womb. The couple had to battle with the hospital for four months before it was conceded that Mark had a heartbeat when he was born. It was only then that an investigation into his death was initiated.

Even then, it took a further twenty months to conclude the investigation – a delay which was described by Dr Crowley as “lamentable” – which ultimately reported that “failures in the standard of care provided were casually linked to the foetal hypoxia damage that occurred”. The report recommended a number of actions to prevent the same mistakes happening again.

However, a short time later, Roisin Molloy was listening to the radio when she heard Shauna Keyes recount how her son – Joshua – had died soon after his birth at the Midland General Hospital. The circumstances surrounding the birth of both of her children was startlingly similar. The two women got in touch with each other and RTE´s Investigation Unit picked up the story.

The RTE Investigation Unit discovered there were at least two further incidents of babies dying after birth due to childbirth medical negligence. Both of which had been investigated internally at the hospital, but the results of the investigations never delivered to the grieving parents. The RTE investigators also disclosed that none of the recommended measures following baby Mark Molloy´s death had been implemented and, if they had, all three of the childbirth fatalities could have been avoided.

Appearing in the program, Dr Philip Crowley apologised “unequivocally” to the parents who had lost children due to childbirth medical negligence and, appearing on the radio show Today, the Minister for Health – Dr James Reilly – also commented that the level of service provided at the Midland Hospital in Portlaoise was “utterly unacceptable”. The Minister said that he had asked the Chief Medical Officer to conduct a further investigation into the failings of care at the hospital.

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HSE Accepts Liability for Wrongful Death of Mother due to Pre-Eclampsia

The HSE had accepted liability for the wrongful death of a new mother due to preventable pre-eclampsia.

In September 2010, Dhara Kivlehan (29) was admitted to Sligo General Hospital for the delivery of her first child. She had been experiencing painless contractions for two days before attending the facility. Dhara was two weeks passed her due date. Upon initial medical examination, she was diagnosed with signs of pre-eclampsia, including high blood pressure and fluid retention around her ankles (also known as oedema).

A blood test was taken to secure the diagnosis. The results showed that she had abnormal kidney and liver function, which are also symptoms of pre-eclampsia.  In spite of the risks to the unborn child, 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. However, medical staff did not transfer to Intensive Care Unit at Sligo General Hospital until 4.45pm the following day. 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.

In spite of medical intervention, Dhara died four days later due to multiple organ failure secondary to HELLP syndrome – a variant of pre-eclampsia. 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, sought legal counsel. He 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 liability for Dhara’s death, stating that there had not been a failure in the duty of care by Sligo General Hospital in the treatment that Dhara had received. In spite of their denial, 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.

The case was heard at the High Court in Dublin. A representative of the HSE  read a statement which 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.

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Teenager Receives Interim Settlement of Compensation for Birth Injuries

A teenager has received an interim settlement of compensation for birth injuries she sustained which left her permanently disabled.

In November 2001, Mary Conroy attended the Midland Regional Hospital in Portloaise believing that her waters had broken and that she was about to give birth to her first child. After consulting medical staff at the facility, Mary was sent home after being reassured that everything was fine. However,  three days later she attended the clinic of her private consultant obstetrician – Dr John Corristine – and, following an ultrasound, Mary insisted she be admitted into hospital.

Mary was admitted to the Midland Regional Hospital. Medical staff performed a CTG scan, which failed to pick up any signs of contractions. Mary was advised to take a bath – however insufficient hot water was available at the hospital in order for her to do so. Dr Corristine then prescribed medicine that should induce labour, and Mary was discharged from the hospital. The consultant subsequently failed to return during Mary´s labour or when she gave birth to her daughter.

Roisin was born the following morning, but suffered seizures soon after her birth. She was transferred to a hospital in Dublin with more suitable neo-natal facilities to receive specialist attention. However, Roisin´s condition failed to improve and she was diagnosed with suffering from severe disabilities. These were later diagnosed as dyskinetic cerebral palsy. She has been left permanently disabled, and relies on eye movement for all of her communication.

Mary blamed herself for Roisin´s devastating birth injuries, and insisted on having two further children delivered by Caesarean Section. Both she and her husband Kevin gave up their jobs to care for Roisin. In relation to Roisin’s condition, the hospital had told them that nothing could have been done to prevent the tragedy and that they were “just unlucky”.

However, after speaking with a solicitor, an investigation was launched into the events prior to Roisin´s birth. Following the legal advice of their solicitor, the couple made a claim for dyskinetic cerebral palsy compensation against the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Dr Corristine.  Both defendants denied their liability for Roisin´s injuries for almost two years. They maintained their position until five weeks before a court hearing was due to take place, at which point both the hospital and Dr Corristine admitted that mistakes had been made in the management of Mary´s pregnancy.

An interim settlement of dyskinetic cerebral palsy compensation amounting to €2.3 million was negotiated between the legal teams. However, as the compensation was being offered to a child, it needed to be approved at the High Court in Dublin to ensure that it was in her best interests.  The case was heard by Ms Justice Mary Irvine, and the settlement was approved.

At the hearing,   an apology was read to the family by an HSE representative and Dr Corristine. Ms Justice Mary Irvine then adjourned the case for two years so that a study of Roisin´s future needs can be made and to allow time for legislation to be passed allowing a structured compensation payment system.

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Recipients of Faulty PIP Breast Implants to Receive Compensation

The recipients of faulty PIP breast implants-which have been known to rupture and leak-will receive compensation from TUV Rheinland.

A French court has ordered German safety company TUV Rheinland to pay upward of 17,000 women compensation for PIP breast implants which were manufactured by the bankrupt company Poly-Implant-Prothese.

The class action against the German company – which certified the safety of the PIP implants – has been several years in the making, and is one of the largest of its kind. IT was brought on the basis that TUV Rheinland had a responsibility to check the quality of the implants before issuing Poly-Implant-Prothese with a guarantee that they conformed to European standards. However, the class action alleged that TUV Rheinland had been negligent in their duty and no such checks were made. Therefore, Poly-Implant-Prothese substituted a low grade of industrial silicone in place of the Europe-approved type in order to reduce manufacturing costs and maximise profit.

A French study revealed that nearly 25% of PIP breast implants burst or leaked. Some of these incidents have caused medical complications when the silicone gel secreted into the victims´ lymph nodes, and one woman in France is known to have died due to anaplastic large cell lymphoma. No long-term side effects have yet been confirmed, and experts believe that it may be many years before the full effect of the faulty PIP breast implants is known.

TUV Rheinland’s legal team argued in court that the company was a victim of fraud. They state that TUV Rheinland’s only responsibility was to audit Poly-Implant-Prothese´s paperwork, and not check the safety of the implants themselves. However, solicitors representing the claimants said that TUV Rheinland failed to do its job properly and gave “global credibility” to a product which did not deserve it. It also emerged in court that the employee in charge of quality control had only a cookery diploma, while another in charge of the laboratory had previously trained as a pastry chef, and therefore were not qualified to perform the tasks required of them.

After hearing evidence on behalf of TUV Rheinland and the 17,000 claimants from Britain, France and South America, judges at the Commercial Court in Toulon found TUV Rheinland had “neglected its duties of vigilance” and awarded each claimant €3,000 (£2,500) immediately for the removal of their faulty breast implants, and a further €13,000 (£10,900) compensation for PIP breast implants to be received at a later date subject to an appeal by TUV Rheinland.

The verdict provides an opportunity for up to 400,000 women worldwide to claim compensation for PIP breast implants. Jan Spivey – spokeswoman for the British plaintiffs and the PIP Action Campaign group – said “I am delighted. It is a first important victory for PIP victims worldwide and especially those British victims who have received no help from the health service or the Government. It means that they can start to get the surgical help [to replace defective implants] that they urgently need.”

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High Court Judge Announced as Symphysiotomy  Compensation Scheme Leader

A former High Court judge has been announced by the Minister for Health as the leader in a report to examine the feasibility of a symphysiotomy  compensation scheme.

Earlier this month, the Minister for Health Dr James Reilly announced in a press conference that Judge Yvonne Murphy has been asked to examine the feasibility of a compensation scheme for women who underwent the controversial childbirth procedure. The woman-who have been left with permanent injuries such as incontinence, difficulty with walking and chronic pain-have been the centre of a legal battle for many years to receive the compensation to which they are entitled.

Judge Murphy has been asked to compile a series of compensation options for review in February 2014, to “assist in finding closure” for the women affected by the operation. In addition to the announcement of the scheme leader, Dr Reilly said that the Government would contribute to an ex gratia scheme if that is the symphysiotomy compensation plan recommended. It is reported that Judge Murphy will be meeting with insurance companies to explore whether they would contribute towards such a scheme.

Before this scheme was announced, a private members bill was brough to the Dáil by Sinn Féin’s Health Spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin. At the time the bill was announced, Dr Reilly said that he would not oppose it. The point of the bill was to allow a one-year window for the affected women to make claims for symphysiotomy compensation. This bill faced difficulties when the Government were then told that such a move could result in a legal challenge by the insurance companies who would have been liable for compensating the women.

Sinn Féin’s health spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin criticised plans to keep the statute of limitations in place. He said “The type of scheme outlined in the terms of reference offers the women no prospect of adequate compensation for what was so barbarically done to them nor the choice to pursue their rights in the courts.”

However Chairman of the support group Survivors of Symphysiotomy Ltd – Tom Moran – welcomed the announcement of a new symphysiotomy compensation plan. His comment was “We welcome this decision to appoint the judge and we hope it leads to women finally being given a chance of some kind of closure.”

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Injuries Board CEO Calls for Insurance Companies not to Raise Their Premiums

The CEO of the Injuries Board in Ireland has called for insurance companies not to increase the value of premiums that their customers pay in spite of the average value of Injuries Board awards increasing.

A recently published report on the awards of compensation issued by the Injuries Board shows that the value of compensation awarded has increased by more than 8 percent during the first six months of the year.

The report was published on the Injuries Board’s website. Both the total number of applications for assessment (16,162) and the average value of Injuries Board awards (€22,349) increased in relation to the corresponding  six-month period in 2012. The CEO of the Injuries Board in Ireland –  Patricia Byrne-commented that the higher volume of claims and increased value of accepted compensation assessments did not provide an excuse for insurance companies to increase the premiums they charge.

She said that, as the Board´s processing fee for respondents had been reduced from €850.00 to €600.00 between 2012 and 2013. The savings made by insurance companies should counter the increased value of Injuries Board claims, and thus their premiums should not rise. She added that early indications from the third quarter of 2013 show a general decline in the number of applications for assessment being received by the Injuries Board.

Traffic accident compensation claims made up nearly 75.5 percent of the claims, which was by far the highest proportion attributed to any one category. Claims for injuries sustained in public places (public liability claims) accounted for 16.4% of accepted Injuries Board assessments. The balance (8.1 percent) being made up of awards of compensation for accidents at work.

The report failed to highlight that the percentage of accepted assessments (Injuries Board awards that plaintiffs agree to) fell from 37.2 percent in 2012 to 32.7 percent in 2013. This number would indicate a higher proportion of claims for personal injury compensation are being settled outside of the Injuries Board process.

However, it should be noted that – even if you are in advanced stages of negotiating a compensation settlement with an insurance company – an application for assessment should still be submitted to the Injuries Board. If your negotiations are unsuccessful, and court action is required to resolve your claim, you (or your solicitor) will require that an Authorisation” is issued by the Injuries Board before court action can proceed.

Please also note that the Injuries Board does not accept applications for assessment when plaintiffs have sustained a loss, injury or the deterioration of an existing condition due to medical negligence, and it is always recommended that you seek the advice of a solicitor in these circumstances.

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Widower’s Claim for Compensation Settled in Out-of-Court Agreement

A widower’s claim for compensation for her husband’s wrongful death in hospital has been settled in an out-of-court agreement.

John Devereux from Greenrath, County Tipperary, attended the South Tipperary General Hospital in January 2008 with a swollen toe on his right foot. Doctors diagnosed that the toe was infected due to septic arthritis, and prescribed Sodium Fusidate to treat the infection. He was sent home, and was told that his infection should clear within the next couple of weeks.

The following month, John was still experiencing pain in his foot. He returned to the hospital to seek medical attention, and further complained of pains in his arms and legs. Doctors administered further doses of Sodium Fusilate  for his foot infection. John was admitted to hospital to be kept under medical observation. As John´s condition deteriorated, he was diagnosed with rhabdmoloysis – a condition in which the muscles break down – which then developed into acute renal failure.

In need of specialist attention, John was transferred to Cork University Hospital on February 21s. In spite of the efforts of medical staff, his condition failed to improve. He died in hospital on March 2nd 2008.

John´s widow – Margaret Devereux – sought legal counsel regarding her husband’s death in hospital. She made a wrongful death claim against Tipperary General Hospital on the grounds that the medication John had been prescribed when he first attended the hospital had conflicted with the treatment he was undergoing for his diabetes, and that medical staff at the clinic should have paid attention to the medicine he was already taking.

She further alleged that doctors at the hospital had failed to recognise the symptoms of rhabdmoloysis when John had returned to the hospital in a timely manner.  She made a claim for compensation for severe mental distress, loss and damages.

The wrongful death claim against Tipperary General Hospital was denied by the Health Service Executive (HSE) on the grounds that the hospital had not been in breach of its duty of care. However, at the High Court in Dublin, Mrs Justice Mary Irvine heard that an out of court settlement amounting to €45,000 had been agreed between the two parties.

Approving the settlement, Mrs Justice Mary Irvine said that it had been a very tragic case, but there would have been a “huge hill” to climb if the case had had gone to trial.

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Master of Rotunda Hospital Calls for Greater Doctor Availability

The Master of the Rotunda Hospital has called on the government for an increase in senior doctor availability to reduce the number of birth negligence cases at the facility.

The Master of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin-Dr Sam Coulter-Smith-has called on the HSE to address the problem of senior doctor availability. He claims that if more senior doctors were available in his facility, there would be a significant increase in the care offered to patients, and thus a reduction medical negligence cases. He made a particular reference to the number of cerebral palsy cases handled by the HSE.

Dr Sam Coulter-Smith made his address to the Health Service Executive while speaking to doctors, midwives and families at a conference aimed at reducing the number of medical negligence cerebral palsy cases in Ireland.

Dr Coulter-Smith said that the number of medical negligence cerebral palsy cases each year was the same as it was two decades ago. This is in spite of an increase in foetal monitoring and births by Caesarean section, and general improvements in the technology available to staff. He attributed this statistic to the preventable mistakes were being made by inexperienced medical staff.

He further stated that under the current consultant contracts, senior doctors only have to work in a hospital between 8.00am and 8.00pm. Outside of those hours they could be on call at home. This delay in their arrival to the hospital could be catastrophic in the case of an emergeny.

Dr Coulter-Smith said that this lack of senior staff caused junior doctors to make decisions regarding the health of mothers and babies, despite being largely inexperienced. He said “there needs to be 24/7 cover of labour wards by senior doctors to address this problem”.

He explained that staff at the hospital had introduced measures with the aim of helping to reduce the number of medical negligence cerebral palsy cases. A second tier of experienced doctors had been established who were available at the hospital when an emergency occurred outside of “normal” hours.

However, he admitted that these measures were contrary to the advice given by the Health Service Executive. The government body had asked the Rotunda Hospital to reduce the number of medical staff, and he called on the HSE to address the problem concerning the problem of senior doctor availability. He commented that the amount the State spent each year on paying compensation for medical negligence cerebral palsy cases was equivalent to his hospital´s annual budget. Therefore, increasing the number of senior doctors available would be a good investment.

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Support Group Calls for Increased Government Action in Child Narcolepsy Cases

A support group has called for the government to increase their efforts and follow through on the promises made to the families of children suffering from narcolepsy.

The Irish organisation Sufferers of Unique Narcolepsy Disorder (SOUNDS) recently made a public claim that the government has not fulfilled its promise to provide assistance for children suffering from the side effects of the 2009/10 flu jab. Families in the UK who suffer from similar circumstances have been offered compensation for adverse effects to Pandemrix, while no such offer has been made to Irish families.

SOUND’s statement comes in response to remarks made by Health Minister James Reilly while being interviewed at a radio station last week. In the interview, the health minister said that, to the “best of his knowledge”, all the personal and financial assistance that had been requested by families in Ireland whose children had contracted narcolepsy after being administered the flu vaccine Pandemrix had been provided.

Eilish Plunkett – a member of the SOUND committee – has claimed that the minister’s statement is incorrect. Ms Plunkett’s son Sean is one of the children suffering from narcolepsy as a result of the Pandemrix flu vaccine,. She commented that although “some services and financial compensation for the adverse effects to Pandemrix were in place”, the medical assistance that was being provided was classified as a temporary measure.

Ms Plunkett said that the provision of support services and financial compensation for the adverse effects to Pandemrix could be removed at any time at the discretion of the government. She states that her son had a permanent illness which needed life-long support. She added that a package of permanent support measures recommended in the official 2012 report “Investigation of an Increase in the Incidence of Narcolepsy in Children and Adolescents in 2009 and 2010” had still not gone before the government for approval. This is in spite of assurances from the Health Minister that they would be approved prior to the 2012 summer government break.

Meanwhile families in the UK have been told that – provided it can be shown that their children have suffered a severe disability – they will be eligible for compensation for the adverse effects to Pandemrix through the Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme administered by the UK´s Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). A DWP spokesperson said “The Department for Work and Pensions has looked at some vaccine damage payments cases again in light of new information regarding swine flu and narcolepsy provided by the Department for Health”.

More than 800,000 doses of Pandemrix were administered in Ireland throughout the winter of 2009/10. The Health Service Executive said it knew of thirty cases of the sleeping disorder narcolepsy among children who were administered the vaccine. However, the support group SOUND claims to represent the interests of fifty-four children who are suffering from adverse effects to Pandemrix, and that the government figures are not accurate.

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RCSI Publishes Report into Primary Causes of Medical Malpractice Claims Against GPs

The RSCI has recently published a report into the leading causes of medical malpractice claims made against GPs in Ireland.

A report compiled by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland has recently been published in the British Medical Journal which revealed that medical malpractice claims against GPs are for wrong diagnosis. The report was compiled by the Centre for Primary Care Research in Dublin. In researching the report, investigators looked into more than seven thousand medical malpractice claims against GPs. Its objective was to identify which areas of primary care required specific attention when developing risk management systems for primary healthcare practitioners and planning future educational strategies.

The report-entitled “The Epidemiology of Malpractice Claims in Primary Care: A Systematic Review”-found that the most common reason for medical malpractice claims against GPs were for the missed or delayed diagnosis of cancer. In particular, the report mentioned breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer and cancer of the female genital tract. The report also revealed that medication errors (prescribing and administering) was the cause for a large proportion of the complaints. In children, the failure to correctly diagnose appendicitis and meningitis was the leading cause for claims.

Lead researcher Dr Emma Wallace – who is herself a GP – acknowledged that medical malpractice claims against GPs were not the ideal substitute for adverse events. She commented that when medical malpractice claims are made against GPs, the doctors against whom the claims are made often suffer increased stress levels – reducing their effectiveness, and placing more patients at risk of a misdiagnosis or medication error.

Dr Wallace also highlighted the fact that GPs are more frequently practicing defensively due to the risk of litigation. Therefore, they refer patients to consultants rather than make a diagnosis themselves in order to protect themselves against missed diagnoses cases. This unwillingness to use their experience to make a diagnosis can lead to patients´ conditions deteriorating further (due to the delay in seeing a consultant) and ultimately create more pressure on an under-resourced health service.

She hopes that the “systematic review is timely considering the increased interest in focusing on primary care as a way of improving patient care and safety” and that the report will provide an insight into the types of adverse events in clinical practice and the reasons for them happening, which would reduce the number of medical malpractice claims against GPs in Ireland and have the effect of increasing the standard of primary care provided.

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Five Hospitals Found in Serious Breach of National Health Standards

Five hospitals around Ireland have been found in serious breach of National Standards for the Prevention and Control of Healthcare Associated Infections.

The Health Information and Quality Authority have recently conducted inspections in medical facilities around the country, which have revealed a high risk of infections in hospitals. Five hospitals in particular have been given six weeks to develop a suitable quality improvement plans, or face consequences.

In June, The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) found five serious breaches of the National Standards for the Prevention and Control of Healthcare Associated Infections in hospitals in Ireland. These breaches of the National Standards meant that patients and visitors alike were placed at high risk of contracting an infection in the hospitals. HIQA has published the results of their findings in order to alert the general public and raise awareness of the issue.

A summary of the conclusions of the report for each of the five hospitals can be found below:

Louth County Hospital

Louth County Hospital was a typical example of patients being placed at high risk of infections in hospitals. Inspectors discovered two cases in which patients with known transmissible infections were placed in isolation rooms with the doors left open onto the general ward as standard practice.

Navan Hospital

The Emergency Department at Navan Hospital was found to be generally unclean and was not effectively managed to reduce the spread of infections. Hygiene problems in the hospital´s female medical ward where also identified resulting in patients not adequately protected from the risk of healthcare associated infections.

St Michael´s Hospital, Dun Laoghaire

At St Michael´s Hospital in Dun Laoghaire, inspectors discovered that mould had been allowed to develop in the hospital´s toilets and showering facilities. Inspectors reported that hand hygiene practices in general posed a risk of transmitting infections to patients.

Portiuncila Hospital

At Portiuncila Hospital in Ballinasloe a high risk of infections in hospitals was due to the hospital failing to make use of security features already in place which allowed uncontrolled access to hazardous clinical waste material and medical equipment.

Waterford Regional Hospital

The inspectors found the Waterford Regional Hospital in breach of several guidelines set by the National Standards. Patients with suspected transmittable diseases were left in the main area of the Emergency Department due to the isolation room being used as a storeroom, and therefore exposed a great many more people to possible infection. They also found that the hand hygiene of staff working in the Emergency Department was inadequate and risked spreading healthcare associated infections to other patients. Mould had been allowed to develop around the base of a shower used by patients, on the soap holder, around the water outlet and on the shower chair. Commodes and bedpans were so heavily stained that they had to be withdrawn from use and one member of staff was observed failing to clean a used commode after use.

About the Health Information and Quality Authority

The Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) is an independent body which examines the safety and quality of the health service in Ireland. The National Standards it inspects for are applicable to healthcare services provided by or on behalf of the Heath Services Executive (HSE), as well as those provided by independent nursing and care homes – with particular scrutiny on services for persons with disabilities, children and older people.

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Savita Halappanavar’s Husband Announces Medical Negligence Claim Against HSE

The husband of Savita Halappanavar – who died at the University Hospital Galway last October after being denied an abortion – has announced that he is making an HSE hospital negligence claim for compensation.

In October, Savita Halappanavar (31) had attended the Galway hospital on the morning after complaining of a severe back pain. She was found to be miscarrying her 17 week-old foetus. In spite of her condition, she was sent home by hospital staff. Still experiencing excruciating pain, Savita returned later in the day and was admitted overnight.

The following morning, Savita´s consultant doctor – Dr Katherine Astbury – was advised that Savita´s waters had broken and said that she would have to “await events”. Savita waited until the following day before requesting a termination, but was told by the midwife manager that it was not possible while the foetal heartbeat was still present due to restrictive abortion laws in Ireland.

Savita´s condition continued to rapidly deteriorate. Dr Astbury misdiagnosed her with sepsis after, as the consultant had failed to read the patient notes made the previous evening. Dr Astbury admitted at the inquest into Savita´s death that, at that point, she had consulted with a senior colleague about a termination. A later scan revealed that Savita´s baby was already dead.

Savita was moved to intensive care, where it was discovered that she had developed septicaemia due to E.coli ESBL. She became critically ill and, on Sunday October 28th, she died of multiple organ failure due to severe septicaemia.

An inquest into Savita´s death delivered a verdict of medical misadventure and a Health Service Executive investigation was carried out to identify where the failings occurred that lead to Savita´s death. However, despite discovering a catalogue of negligence, the investigation failed to establish who was at fault, and the HSE declined to admit liability for Savita´s wrongful death.

Savita´s distraught family described the HSE´s report as a “whitewash”, and the case gained much media attention. Savita’s widower-Praveen Halappanavar-has now announced he is making an HSE hospital negligence claim for compensation on the grounds that the University Hospital Galway failed to follow up blood tests, failed to diagnose and failed to treat.

Whether Praveen´s HSE hospital negligence claim goes to court will depend on whether the hospital or HSE acknowledge their liability before a court date is arranged

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Teenager Receives Interim Settlement of Compensation for Birth Injuries

A teenager has received an interim settlement of compensation for injuries he sustained at birth which left him suffering from cerebral palsy.

In January 2000, Ryan Brennan from Cahir in County Tipperary was born at St. Joseph´s Hospital in Clonmel. Several hours before he was born, a foetal trace had indicated to medical staff that he had an abnormal heart rate. Ryan was described as being in a “poor condition” when he was born. He had to be resuscitated shortly after his delivery. He also suffered seizures throughout the rest of the day and sustained irreversible brain damage. He was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

On behalf of their son, Ryan’s parents sought legal counsel. It was claimed by Ryan´s parents that Ryan´s injuries could have been avoided if the staff at St Joseph´s Hospital and, in particular, consultant obstetrician – Dr Brendan Powell – had acted with as soon as the foetal trace had identified a problem. They made a compensation claim for brain damage due to a failure to act on behalf of their son against Dr Powell and the HSE.

Both of the defendants denied the allegations of a failure to act, negligence, a breach of contract by the hospital and a breach in the duty of care by Dr Powell. Due to the dispute in liability, the case was heard at the High Court in Dublin by Ms Justice Mary Irvine.

The judge was told that an agreement had been reached with the HSE on an interim settlement of compensation for brain damage due to a failure to act, without an admission of liability. Furthermore, he case against Dr Powell  had been struck out.

The interim settlement amounts to €1.7 million and is valid for two years while a review of Ryan´s future needs is conducted and to allow for the proposed introduction of a structured compensation payment system in Ireland. Ms Justine Mary Irvine approved the settlement – describing it as ‘in the upper parameters of these types of cases’ as she did.

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Judge Approves Interim Settlement of Compensation in Avoidable Delay at Birth Case

A High Court judge has approved an interim settlement of compensation to be awarded to a boy who sustained major brain damage due to an avoidable delay in his delivery.

A 10-year-old boy, who developed acute hypoxic ischaemia moments before his birth and was then left unventilated after his delivery, has had an interim settlement of compensation for dyskinetic cerebral palsy approved in court.

In July 2002, Eoin Murphy (ten years of age),of Malahide, County Dublin, was born at the Coombe Women’s and Infants’ University Hospital. Medical staff had diagnosed him with suffering from near total acute hypoxic ischaemia at the time of his birth. However, he was not ventilated until seventeen minutes later because a paediatric registrar was not available at the time.

As a consequence of the avoidable delay, Eoin´s brain was starved of oxygen  and he sustained significant brain damage. He was later diagnosed with dyskinetic cerebral palsy. One of the predominant symptoms of this diagnosis is the presence of involuntary uncoordinated movements in the arms, legs, face, and trunk.

On behalf of her son, Dr Fiona Murphy sought legal counsel. She made a claim for dyskinetic cerebral palsy against the hospital and, in February this year, Ms Justice Mary Irvine found the Coombe Hospital liable for Eoin´s injuries after a High Court hearing.

The case in February was adjourned for the assessment of damages, and yesterday Mr Justice Michael Moriarty approved an interim settlement of compensation for dyskinetic cerebral palsy amounting to €2.9 million on Eoin’s behalf, as he was a minor at the time of the hearing.

The settlement should be sufficient to provide Eoin with support and care for two years, with a further hearing scheduled for 2015, when a review of Eoin´s future requirements will be conducted and by which time a periodic compensation payment system may be in place.

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