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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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