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.