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Widower Receives Compensation for Wife’s Avoidable Death

A widower has received a six-figure settlement from the HSE as compensation for his wife’s avoidable death.

In 2006, Helen Malone, originally from Carlow, died at St Luke´s General Hospital in Kilkenny. Her death came just four days after she had undergone surgery on her bowel. The operation had been delayed several times before she finally received the medical attention which she required. An inquest into her death was launched, which revealed that Helen died due to systemic sepsis and multiple organ failure. It was revealed that her injuries were caused by a perforated bowel. The experts conducting the investigation suggested that had the operation on her bowel been performed sooner, there was a strong likelihood that Helen would have survived.

Her widower, Patrick, made a claim for compensation for delayed surgery which resulted in a fatal injury. He claimed in his action against St Luke´s General Hospital, consultant surgeon George Nessim and the HSE. He further stated that the avoidable nature of Helen´s death had caused him and Helen´s six adult children great mental distress.

In 2009, the Irish Medical Council found Dr Nessim guilty on four counts of professional misconduct in relation to Helen´s death. In spite of Dr Nessim’s conviction, the HSE refused to acknowledged liability for failing to meet the appropriate standard of care. Patrick was issued permission to pursue his case in court.

The case was postponed on five different occasions before it was  heard by Mr Justice Ryan at the High Court. At the hearing, Judge Ryan was told that a settlement of compensation for the delayed surgery which resulted in fatal injury to Helen had been negotiated between the parties. The final settlement amounted to €165,000. The judge was also informed that as a condition of the settlement, the HSE had to read an apology to the family acknowledging that the standard of care afforded to Helen was sub-standard and led to a series of events which caused her untimely death.

After hearing the apology read to the family, Judge Ryan approved the compensation settlement .He wished the family well, and commended both sides for settling “a difficult, painful and tragic case”.

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