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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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