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Child Left Permanently Disabled Due to Medical Negligence

A child has been awarded €2.6 million as an interim settlement of compensation for injuries he sustained due to medical negligence while attending his local hospital. He was left with lifelong disabilities due to the negligence.

In August 2012, Eoghan Dunne-who was eleven months old at the time of the incident-was admitted to the Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe. Eoghan-originally from Co. Offaly-was suffering from severe respiratory distress and an elevated heart rate. He was kept under observation of medical staff, and within twelve hours his condition had become so severe that it was deemed necessary for him to be transferred to Temple Street Children’s Hospital, Dublin.

At the Dublin hospital, Eoghan went into septic shock and suffered from a heart attack. His brain was starved of oxygen, and as a consequence he sustained severe brain damage. After further medical investigation, he was diagnosed with epilepsy. Furthermore, he was left with severe visual impairments and an inability to walk or talk. Eoghan remained in hospital in hospital for nearly half a year after the heart attack. Upon returning home, he became entirely reliant on his parents and requires twenty-four hour care. He will need this level of attention for the rest of his life.

An investigation was launched into the nature of Eoghan’s injuries. The report produced showed that he had received substandard care whilst at the Portincula Hospital. The review alleges that the facility was not prepared for cases such as Eoghan’s, and that they failed to give him antibiotics, as is normally required according to the HSE’s policies regarding sepsis. Additionally, the transfer to Temple Street was unnecessarily delayed because of a lack of “competent staff” at the facility.

Ronan and Teresa, Eoghan’s parents, sought legal counsel in the hopes of claiming compensation for their son. They decided to make a claim for medical negligence compensation against the HSE and the Portiuncula Hospital, alleging that their son would not have sustained as severe injuries had the hospital acted appropriately. However, the HSE denied that they were liable and a court hearing was scheduled.

Shortly before the case was due to be heard in court, the HSE decided to concede liability for the claim and offered an interim settlement of compensation such that an adequate assessment of Eoghan’s needs could be made. Before this could be awarded, it was subject to approval by the High Court of Dublin as the claim was made on behalf of a minor.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross oversaw the approval hearing. The circumstances of Eoghan’s case were presented to him, as was the extent of care that Eoghan needed form his parents. The judge readily approved the settlement. He added that, had the HSE conceded liability earlier, Eoghan could have afforded treatment at a more critical stage. The interim settlement amounts to €2.4 million, and assessments are currently underway to finalise the next settlement.

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