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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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