Dublin’s High Court have approved a seven-figure settlement of compensation for a teenage boy who sustained grave brain damage at his birth.
On the 6th September 1996, Thomas O’Connor was born at the Sligo General Hospital. As he was diagnosed with foetal distress in utero, Thomas was delivered by emergency Caesarean section, yet when he was born he did not show any signs of life. The baby was resuscitated with a breathing tube.
In the claim for birth negligence compensation, Thomas’ mother alleges that the delivery of Thomas and his subsequent resuscitation was negligent. Twice, Thomas was starved of oxygen, which caused severe brain damage that has rendered Thomas a spastic quadriplegic. He is also blind, and can only eat through a tube.
Ann O’Connor, on her son’s behalf, made the claim against the Sligo General Hospital. She alleges that there were necessary delays of up to four hours in Thomas’ delivery. She also alleges 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 allegations of birth injury negligence were denied by the Health Service Executives, who also disputed the claim for compensation. The case proceeded to the High Court of Dublin, where it was heard by Mr Justice Kevin Cross. 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 determined that a settlement of €1.75 million was agreed between the parties, without an admission of liability by the HSE. 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.