Category Archives: Medical Negligence in Ireland

The definition of medical negligence in Ireland is when a medical practitioner or the agent of a medical facility produces a poor professional performance which is below the accepted standard of care in the medical community. If you have suffered a loss, an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition due to somebody´s breach in their standard of care, to may be possible to claim compensation for medical negligence in Ireland. To find out more about your rights and to receive independent legal advice, call our Freephone helpline and speak with an experienced medical negligence solicitor.

Court Approves Interim Settlement of Spastic Diplegia Cerebral Palsy Compensation

The High Court has approved a €1.98 million interim settlement of spastic diplegia cerebral palsy compensation in favour of a six-year-old boy.

The six-year-old boy was one of a set of male twins born by emergency Caesarean Section at Cork University Maternity Hospital on 5th October 2010. Although his brother was delivered successfully, he was born in poor health having suffered foetal distress in his mother´s womb. He was later diagnosed with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy.

On the boy´s behalf, his mother claimed spastic diplegia cerebral palsy compensation – alleging that there had been a failure by the hospital to exercise reasonable care at the antenatal stage of the pregnancy. She alleged that scans in June and September had revealed a low-lying placenta, a foreseeable cause of vasa praevia complications.

The Cork University Maternity Hospital and Health Service Executive (HSE) denied liability for the boy´s birth injuries – arguing it was not normal practice to investigate the risk of vasa praevia complications. However, an interim settlement of spastic diplegia cerebral palsy compensation was agreed without an admission of liability.

As the legal action had been brought on behalf of a child, the interim settlement of spastic diplegia cerebral palsy compensation had to be approved by a court to ensure it was in the boy´s best interests. At the approval hearing, the High Court was told about the circumstances leading up to the boy´s birth and the alleged lack of regard to the operative risk indicators for foetal distress.

The High Court was also told how, in 2014, the boy had won a National Children of Courage Award, and that last year a crowd-funding scheme raised enough money to fly the family to Missouri for Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy surgery. As a result of the surgery, the boy is now able to walk short distances, but he still requires physiotherapy, speech, language and occupational therapy.

The interim settlement of spastic diplegia cerebral palsy was approved by the High Court and the case was adjourned for five years for reports to be conducted into the boy´s future needs. In five years´ time, the family will be eligible for a further interim settlement or a lump sum payment of spastic diplegia cerebral palsy compensation if a periodic payment system has not yet been introduced.

Review of Irish Medical Negligence Claims Announced

 

Simon Harris, the Minister for Health, has announced that the new National Patient Safety Office will review the current procedures by which patients claim for medical negligence compensation.

The soon-to-be established National Patient Safety Office, announced by the Health Minister whilst speaking at a patient safety  conference in Dublin, will report to the Department of Justice and Equality. Mr Harris commented that the organisation will “lead a program of significant patient safety measures”.

The new office will also establish a patient advocacy service for patients across Ireland, the organisation of a new patient advisory council and the use of a patient safety surveillance system. It will also review the procedures for claiming medical negligence compensation.

This review was organised to help progress the Health Information and Patient Safety Bill. This proposes to allow patients and their families to disclose adverse medical events. The HSE had established guidelines for this open disclosure in 2013, though to date they have not been applied to Irish hospitals.

Many patient rights campaigners have been lobbying for such a review for many years, claiming that – without that statutory duty of candour – any new medical negligence claims are impossible. They also criticise Leo Varadkar, former Minister for Health, for failing to enforce open disclosure in 2015’s Civil Liberty (Amendment) Bill.

The Health Information and Patient Safety Bill also proposes to end the unauthorised disclosure of health information, establish the use of new technologies to exchange health data, to extend the Health Information and Quality Authority’s (HIQA) hold over private healthcare providers. However, until the EU revises its data protection regulations, none of these innovations are likely to be enforced.

HSE Concedes Liability for Incorrect Treatment of Cancer

The Health Service Executive has admitted it was liable for administering treatment for cancer that was not appropriate for the case, with the case due to be heard in Dublin’s High Court.

Kevin McMahon, then aged fifty-eight from Roxboro, Co. Limerick, attended his General Practitioner’s with a sore throat in July 2010. He was subsequently sent to the Mid-Western Regional Hospital, Limerick, where doctors examined his throat. They noticed a lesion and proceeded to take a biopsy.

A second biopsy of the lesion was schedules that October, as there were concerns that Mr McMahon had cancer. However, that appointment was cancelled and another one was not rescheduled until January 2011.

It was during that January appointment that Mr McMahon’s cancer was diagnosed. The patient was told that he required immediate fourteen-hour operation to remove his larynx, meaning he now has to communicate through an artificial voice box.

However, after the procedure, Mr McMahon discovered that targeted radiotherapy was an alternative method of treating the cancer. He sought legal counsel before proceeding to make a claim against the Mid-Western Regional Hospital and Health Service Executive for inappropriate treatment of his cancer.

Mr McMahon alleged in the claim that there was no open discussion with him concerning possible treatment, and as such the decision to undergo the operation that removed his larynx was made without adequate informed consent. He also claimed that the delayed second appointment allowed the cancer to develop further and cause preventable damage, which caused him emotional trauma.

Initially, the HSE denied any liability in Mr McMahon’s injuries until a fortnight ago, just before the claim was scheduled to be heard in Dublin’s Hight Court. The hearing proceeded as planned, but Mr Justice Kevin Cross will now be asked to assess the value of the compensation settlement Mr McMahon is to receive.

Newspaper Claims HSE Open Disclosure Policy is not Being Enacted

An Opinion-Editorial Published by the Irish Examiner has claimed that the open disclosure policy for the Health Service Executive is not going to be applied for a long time.

The open disclosure policy, which dictates when the HSE should tell families when there are issues with the standard of healthcare provided to patients took place in November 2013. However, the aforementioned open editorial claimed that the policy is good on paper, yet is still not being enforced in hospitals across Ireland.

Catherine Shanahan – the journalist who wrote the piece – used the details of seven medical negligence cases that occurred in 2015 and gained some attention by the media. According to Shanahan, they demonstrate how the HSE is not admitting to their wrongdoings and as such, if they want to learn the true story of the events they endured, patients and their loved ones are forced to go to court.

Gil Russell’s case, which was one of the most well-known because of the action with the Sates Claim Agency, was used as a demonstrative case by Shanahan. Born in 2006 with cerebral palsy because of a “prolonged and totally chaotic” delivery which left her deprived of oxygen in utero, the HSE only issued an apology in 2012. At the same time, an interim settlement of compensation was awarded.

The Russell family were back in the High Court in 2014 to be awarded a €13.5 million lump settlement, which was the largest ever awarded by the state for cerebral palsy. The State Claims Agency then made an attempt to appeal the settlement, though the case was later rejected. However, the case was then taken to the Supreme Court – again depriving Gill and her family of the settlement.

Other cases mentioned in the editorial included Skye Worthington and Katie Manton – both suffered similar circumstances to Gill Russell, and both waited for years to receive an apology from the Health Service Executive for their mismanaged births.

The article makes a clear case for the claim that the policy is not being applied in Irish hospitals, and that the money put towards public and doctor education concerning the policy was a waste of government funds.

Judge Approves Interim Compensation for Inappropriate Use of Syntocinon

A judge at the High Court in Dublin has approved an interim settlement of compensation for inappropriate use of Syntocinon during labour, which resulted in a baby boy being born with kinetic cerebral palsy.

Patrick Brannigan (7) was born by emergency Caesarean Section at Cavan General Hospital in July 2007. To aid with her labour, his mother-Niamh Brannigan of Castleblayeny, County Monaghan-was administered a dose of the drug.

However, a CTG trace had shown that the unborn baby was in distress in the womb, suggesting that Syntocinon should not be used. When the drug was administered, instead of speeding up labour, it deprived Patrick of oxygen.

As a result, he was born with dyskinetic cerebral palsy. Patrick is now confined to a wheelchair, and will never be able to live a life independent of his parents. He has no proper means of combination with others.

On behalf of her son, Niamh made a claim for the inappropriate use of the synthetic drug, claiming that the medical staff at the hospital had mismanaged the birth, thus resulting in Patrick being born with the disease.

The defendants admitted liability for the injury, acknowledging that Syntocinon should not have been administered in that case, given the evidence of foetal distress. An apology was issued to the family, and interim compensation of €2.1million was offered as settlement. Seeing as Patrick was a minor, such compensation needed to be approved by a judge in court.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross heard the case at the Dublin High Court earlier this week. The circumstances surrounding the birth were presented to him, and he heard that Patrick was a cheerful and good-natured boy. As a result, he approved the interim settlement of compensation for inappropriate use of Syntocinon.

Judge Cross adjourned the claim for three years so that Patrick’s future needs could be thoroughly assessed. It is hoped that legislation will soon be passed so that the family could receive periodic payments to settle the claim for inappropriate use of the drug during labour.

 

Compensation Claim for Failure to Treat Meningitis Settled

A claim made on behalf of a young boy, who was not treated properly after he contracted meningitis, has been resolved in court for a seven-figure interim compensation settlement.

When Matthew McGrath was just seventeen months old on the 27th March 2004, he was admitted to Wexford General Hospital. His symptoms included vomiting and drowsiness, and as such, he was diagnosed with Haemophilus Influenza Type B. This is an established precursor to meningitis, and as such, Matthew should have been given antibiotics.

Matthew was kept in hospital overnight, where his condition worsened. He then went into shock, and in spite of the medical guidelines advising against it, a lumbar puncture was performed. This confirmed that Matthew, indeed, had meningitis, but because of the compression to his spinal chord Matthew is now permanently paralysed.

Due to the failure in care – both for the lack of antibiotics and the inappropriate lumbar puncture, Matthew cannot move any of his limbs and is reliant on a ventilator to breathe. He spent the next two years in hospital, until finally being discharged and returned to his parents’ care.

Cathy McGrath made a claim for compensation on her son’s behalf. In the claim, it was alleged that had Matthew received adequate treatment upon his admission to Wexford General Hospital, he would not be as severely debilitated as he is now.

An investigation ensued at the hospital, and liability for Matthew’s injuries was admitted by the HSE. After issuing an apology, an interim compensation settlement of €3.7 million was agreed upon – though it first needed to be approved by a judge, as it was for a minor.

The case proceeded to the High Court in Dublin, where Mr Justice Cross overheard proceedings. He was detailed the circumstances of the case, and approved the interim settlement. The case was then adjourned for five years such that an assessment of Matthew’s future needs could be conducted.

Claim for Injuries due to Failure to Treat Meningitis Heard at High Court

A Dublin High Court has heard a case of injuries sustained by a young boy due to failure of medical staff at a hospital to correctly treat his meningitis.

In May 2004, Matthew McGrath (then 17 months old) was brought to Wexford General Hospital after his parents noticed that he was vomiting fluids and was unusually sleepy. Matthew was immediately diagnosed with Haemophilus Influenza Type B-a bacteria which is known to lead to meningitis. Matthew should have been administered antibiotics immediately.

Matthew’s condition quickly deteriorated and he went into shock. Matthew underwent lumbar puncture to confirm his case of meningitis, despite medical guidelines against such a procedure when the patient is in shock. As a result of the compression to his spinal cord, Matthew is now permanently paralysed.

Matthew cannot move his arms or legs and his breathing is assisted by a ventilator as a consequence to the medical negligence he experienced during his procedure. It was two years before he finally left hospital and started being cared for by his parents at home.

On behalf of her son, Cathy McGrath made a claim for failure to treat her son’s meningitis against the HSE. She claimed that if her son had been administered the antibiotics and fluids as required when he initially arrived at Wexford General Hospital, he never would have needed the lumbar puncture, and as a result sustained such debilitating injuries.

An investigation was launched into the failure to treat the meningitis. The HSE admitted liability, and an interim settlement of €3.7 million was negotiated. Since Matthew is a minor, the compensation had to be approved by a judge before his family could accept it.

Mr Justice Matthew Cross heard the case at the High Court in Dublin. After hearing the circumstances of Matthew’s injuries, the judge approved the settlement. The claim has been adjourned for five years so that an investigation into Matthew’s future needs can be conducted. A full compensation settlement will be negotiated as a result of this investigation.

 

Judge Finds HSE Liable in Hydrocephalus Case

A High Court Judge has found the HSE liable for a hydrocephalus brain injury after a young girl was left physically and mentally disabled for life.

In April 2008, Ava Kiernan-just three months old at the time-was displaying symptoms of hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”). The disease is caused by spinal fluid collecting in the skull as a result of it not draining from the brain. It is diagnosed in children under a year old by bulges appearing around the skull, or by the quick increase in the circumference of the head.

Her mother brought her to be examined by a public health nurse, who did not act on her mother’s concerns, or arrange a follow-up consultation for Ava. Had a such a consultation been organised, the rapid change in the size of the young girl’s head would have been identified. However, her skull was not measured until September that year. This measurement was performed incorrectly, resulting in inaccurate results.

Due to these errors, and the original nurse’s negligence, the pressure of the spinal fluid in the skull resulted in Ava suffering from brain damage. She now suffers from both physical and mental disabilities.

On her daughter’s behalf, Ruth Kiernan sought legal advice, and made a hydrocephalus brain injury claim for compensation against the HSE. The claim was contested by the defendant, resulting in the case being brought before Mr Justice Kevin Cross in the High Court in Dublin. After a hearing of three weeks, the judge ruled in Ava’s favour. He stated that if there had been the appropriate follow-up examination, or if the measurement of her head in September had been carried out correctly, the hydrocephalus would have been identified and suitably treated. Had it been identified, the judge stated that Ava never would have suffered the brain damage due to the excess of fluid.

Judge Cross adjourned the case so that an investigation into Ava’s future needs could be assessed, and an appropriate settlement could be made to provide for her future.

Medical Protection Society’s Protocols Well Received

The Medical Protection Society’s protocols regarding the reduction costs of hospital negligence claims in Ireland have been well received so far.

The Medical Protection Society-the non-profit organisation responsible for providing legal assistance to those working in the medical sector-has brought forward proposals for “pre-trial protocols” which aim to lower the costs of hospital negligence claims. There are significant expenses involved in bringing legal action against the Health Service Executive (HSE), a problem that the Medical Protection Society is keen to fix.

Their aim is to make communication between the plaintiff’s and the defendant’s legal teams easier by promoting openness and transparency on both sides. They also want to provide an opportunity for each negligence claim made against the hospital to be investigated-and potentially resolved-before litigation is even necessary.

This improved dialogue between sides should lower the costs of medical negligence claims in hospitals across Ireland by creating less adversarial processes. In both England and Wales, solicitors suffer financial penalties if they go straight to the litigation procedure without first attempting some sort of mediation. If the MPS is successful, such penalties would not be required.

Emma Hallinan-the MPS’s Director of Claims-proposes that the protocol should first be trialled voluntarily before any legislation is introduced. She states: “We recognise the important role that the MPS must play, and have committed to trialling procedural reform before it is introduced in statute. We are in the process of writing to plaintiff lawyers with large medical negligence practices to request that they work with us to pilot this.”

Among the various proposals put forward by the Medical Protection Society, a tariff of general damages would be introduced. This is comparable to the Judicial College’s “Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases” in the UK. It would act as a scale of compensation awards for specific physical injuries caused by hospital negligence, ranging from dental damage to severe brain trauma.

Other general damages-such as loss of amenity and emotional trauma-as well as special damages to replace lost incense and expenses would still require negotiation between parties to resolve. Many who have read the proposals commend the MPS, stating that they are heading in the right direction to lower the costs of making such hospital negligence claims in Ireland.

Judge Denies Lump Sum Payment Request

A judge has requested a mother’s request for a lump sum payment for her son’s birth injuries, claiming that it would be a disaster if the money were to one day run out.

In February 1995, Connor Corroon (19) was born in the Cork City General Hospital. Due to a mismanagement of his birth, he had been starved of oxygen in the womb. As a result, he now suffers from cerebral palsy, and is permanently disabled. He is entirely wheelchair dependant, and does not have the ability to speak.

On behalf of her son, Judith Corroon made a claim for birth injuries compensation against the hospital. In 2010, Connor became the first plaintiff to be awarded an interim settlement of compensation for catastrophic injuries pending the introduction of structured payment legislation.

Last year, Connor received his second interim settlement of his birth injuries claim. Seeing as legislation for structured payments has yet to be introduced, he was due to receive his third payment later this year. However, his mother requested that it be a full, final lump sum. Her son must endure a series of assessments every time he has to appear in court to receive his payments, and she claims receiving a lump sum would save him this distress.

She explained her case at the High Court, stating that she desired her son to be able to live a normal life. With the interim payments, it was constantly being interrupted by assessments by different experts. She described her son’s existence as being in a “fishbowl”, and said that in spite of his disability, she hoped that Connor would one day be able to attend university.

Despite her plea, Judge Barton denied her request, stating that if the money from a lump sum payment were to one day run out, it would disastrous for Connor. He approved another interim payment of €1.45 million. To this date, the total paid to Connor for his injuries is €3.25 million.

Justifying his decision, Judge Barton said that he had recently received a consultation paper relating to the proposed Civil Liability (Amendment) Bill. The Bill aims to introduce a system of regular payments next year to better serve plaintiffs with catastrophic injuries. The judge said that a periodic payment system would be in Connor´s best interests, and he adjourned the hearing for a further five years.

Medical Negligence Claim Heard in High Court

A family have been awarded €2.75 million as an interim settlement of compensation for negligence of their consultant obstetrician.

In November 2001, James McCarthy of Clonmel, County Tipperary was born by emergency Caesarean Section at thirty-three weeks. A scan revealed that his twin brother had died in the womb, prompting the emergency medical actions. The baby boy was born with severe disabilities, and diagnosed with cerebral palsy a year after he was born.

On behalf of their son, James Cooney and Linda McCarthy made an injury compensation claim against Dr Raymond Howard-working at St Joseph’s Hospital-the consultant obstetrician who had looked after Linda during the later stages of her pregnancy with James.

Linda claimed that she had been referred to St Joseph’s Hospital for ante natal care and was seen by Dr Howard’s registrar. A scan was conducted, and the registrar wanted to admit Linda to hospital immediately over concerns of the twins that she was carrying.

Dr Howard dismissed his registrar’s concerns, and told Linda that she was to return to him a week later. When she did, a scan revealed that one of the twins that she was carrying had died during that time. This prompted them to deliver James by Caesarean Section immediately. Due to the trauma that James suffered in the womb, he is dependant on his parents for life, as he is unable to walk, talk or sit up by himself.

Linda stated that, although Dr Howard was her obstetrician, the first time that they had actually met was the day after her son was born. She alleged that neither her health not her son’s had been investigated, monitored, diagnosed or treated during the latter part of her pregnancy. She further claimed that James’ injuries could have been avoided in the doctor had taken greater care.

Dr Howard admitted liability for the young boy’s injuries and, at the Dublin High Court, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was informed that an interim settlement of compensation of €2.75 million had been agreed upon.

The judge approved this settlement, and adjourned the case for a further three years so that an investigation into James’ future needs could be completed.

 

Case for Medication Side Effects Heard at High Court

A woman’s claim for compensation due to severe and life-altering side effects of her medication has been heard at the High Court. 

Lorna Savage (43) of Cobh, County Cork, has been granted with permission to pursue her claim for compensation for medication side effects against the manufacturer of the medication-Pfizer-after a hearing at the High Court. Pfizer had applied to have the case dismissed due to the length of time that had passed since the claim was first filed against them.

Mr Justice George Birmingham heard at the hearing that Lorna was first prescribed the steroid Deltacortril in 1997 to treat the skin disorder vasculitis. Vasculitis is a condition which in which damaged blood vessels cluster together and cause an irritable rash on the surface of the skin.

Lorna claims that after a few years of taking the steroid, her condition deteriorated due to her developing Avascular Necrosis. This disease had been established as a rare side effect to the steroid Deltacortril, and prevents blood from reaching the bones of the knee and hip joints. This lack of blood causes the bone tissue in these areas to die-ultimately resulting in the knee and hip bones collapsing entirely.

Four years after her initial prescription, Lorna had both of her knees and one of her hips replaced. The Avascular Necrosis had spread to such an extent that she is now entirely reliant on a wheelchair to move, and has to take morphine to deal with the continual discomfort of the disease.

Lorna sought legal advice, and made a claim for medication side effects against the two doctors who had prescribed her the drug-GP Dr Michael Madigan and her consultant doctor at the Cork University Hospital-Dr M Molloy.

In her claim against Dr Madigan’s estate (he died in 1999), Lorna claimed that he had failed to fully investigate her skin condition and had been negligent to her health in prescribing her Deltacortril when he should have been aware of all potential side effects. In her claim against Dr Molloy, Lorna claimed that he had been negligent in recognising the symptoms of Avascular Necrosis.

Lorna also made a further claim for medication side effects compensation against the pharmaceutical company Pfizer. She claimed that he company did not provide a warning in the literature that accompanied their stereos that their use could case Avascular Necrosis, and had not advised against the consumption of alcohol while taking the tablets.

All of the defendants denied that they were guilty of negligence, and Pfizer applied to have Lorna’s claim dismissed on the grounds of “an inordinate and inexcusable delay” in bringing her case to court.

At court, the judge was informed that the cause of the delay was due to Lorna being unable to instruct her solicitors as she had undergone a total of seven major operations. Mr Justice George Birmingham ruled the delay “excusable”, and denied Pfizer’s application to dismiss the case. The case was listed for a full hearing later in the year.

Case of Hospital Negligence Settled in Court

The case of a woman who died due to hospital negligence has been settled in court, with €165,000 being awarded to her family. 

In January 2006, Helen Malone died in St Luke’s General Hospital due to a delay in having an operation. Helen had been referred to the hospital due to a bowel condition that she suffered which required surgery, but the hospital staff delayed in giving her the vital treatment on several occasions. Helen died four days after the surgery was finally delivered.

An investigation was launched into her death, and it was revealed that she died as a result of systemic sepsis and multiple organ failure. The cause of these ailments was a perforated bowel, and the report stated that had Helen undergone surgery sooner, it was highly likely that she would have survived.

Patrick Malone-Helen’s widower-of Carlow City sought legal counsel and brought his compensation claim for a delayed operation to the HSE. The Irish Medical Council found that the consultant doctor in charge of his wife’s case-George Nessim-guilty on four charges of professional misconduct. Despite this evidence, the HSE refused to accept liability for Helen’s death.

The case was scheduled to be heard in court, but just prior to the hearing, the HSE admitted liability for Helen’s death due to a delayed operation. A settlement of €165,000 was negotiated between the parties for mental anguish suffered by Patrick and his six children as a result of Helen’s premature death.

The settlement needed to be approved by a judge in court before the case could be closed. The hearing was postponed five times before it was finally heard by Mr Justice Ryan. The details of the case were read to him-including how Helen “languished in pain” before the operation-and an apology was read to the family by a representative of St Luke’s Hospital. They acknowledged that the standard of care that Helen had received was sub-parr, and that they were responsible for the series of events which caused her death.

The judge approved the compensation settlement, noting that it did not include aggravated damages. He commented both parties for concluding a “difficult, painful and tragic case”.

Doctor Found Negligent in Undiagnosed Cancer Case

 

A judge has awarded compensation to the family of a woman who died after suffering from an undiagnosed tumour, with the doctor found at fault for negligence. 

In April 2009, Sharon McEneaney (31) of Carrickmacross, County Monaghan, died from a cancerous tumour that grew in her abdomen. She first sought medical attention for pain in the region in the emergency department of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda eighteen months prior to her death, but the tumour was not recognised.

The cancer went undiagnosed for a further nine months, and was only identified when Sharon was given a biopsy in June 2008, due to the intervention for Dr Rory O’Hanlon, a former TD. By the time the cancer was recognised, the tumour had grown too large to be treated. Sharon died of the cancer the following year.

An investigation into Sharon’s death was launched by the Health Service Executive (HSE), and it complied a report of 38 recommendations to prevent future failures to diagnose cancer. In January 2012, Dr Etop Samson Akan was found guilty of a poor professional performance by the Medical Council of Ireland’s Fitness to Practise Committee for his treatment of Sharon.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine at the High Court in Dublin oversaw the case when it was brought to court. The court heard the General Manager of the Louth & Meath Hospital Group-Margaret Swords-read out an apology to Sharon’s family, admitting that the hospital had failed Sharon. The apology also stated that the hospital was making progress in making the changes required to prevent a similar incident from happening again. The court heard in the five years following Sharon’s death, the hospital had implemented six of the HSE’s recommendations.

Sharon’s family received compensation for the failure to diagnose cancer after negotiations between the two parties, valued at €62,500. Sharon’s funeral and other expenses related to her death have been covered by €10,000 settlement, and a further €27,100 in compensation has been awarded for the failure to diagnose the cancer to Sharon’s mother Jane. The remainder of the settlement is being shared between Sharon’s siblings.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine closed the hearing after commending Sharon´s family for their courage, and commented “You have shown marvellous fortitude in the face of such a loss”.

No Judgement Passed in HIV Mix-Up Case

A judge has reserved judgement in a case involving a young women incorrectly being told that she had been infected by HIV after test results had been mixed-up.

In August 2010, Michelle Kenny (35) of Crumlin, Dublin, just returned from a holiday in Majorca when she began to feel unwell. She attended St James Hospital in Dublin, and underwent an ECG and blood tests, and had an x-ray of her chest taken in an attempt to diagnose what was wrong with her.

Michelle remained in hospital for a week, as medical staff believed that she may have a blood clot on her lung. When she was discharged, she still had to wait for the result of a blood test for tuberculosis. Michelle also underwent a blood test for HIV when she returned to the Outpatients Clinic early the following month.

A week after this tests, Michelle received a phone call from her doctor stating that although she was clear for TB, the HIV test that was completed came back as positive. Three further tests were taken, all of which indicated that a mistake had been made with the initial test, and Michelle did not in fact have HIV.

An investigation was launched into the case, and it was revealed that the doctor at St James Hospital had given her the wrong person’s results. Michelle sought legal counsel, and made a claim for compensation for nervous shock against the hospital. She alleged that the news, albeit incorrect, had stopped her from socialising and caused a change in her lifestyle.

The defendants contested the claim, stating that Michelle had not suffered any loss or damages due to the mix-up. They argued that Michelle had quickly been informed of the mistake, and therefor was not entitled to any compensation for the mix-up. Michelle told the court, “I was devastated. I thought I was going to die, that I had no future.”

Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon heard the case, and stated that she would reserve judgement on the claim for test result mix-up compensation for a later date.

Woman Receives Compensation for Post-Birth Trauma

A woman who received negligent care after giving birth by emergency C-section has been awarded compensation for her post-birth trauma. 

In January 2008, Honey Larkin of Letterkenny, County Donegal, brought a case against the Health Service Executive and her consultant gynaecologist Eddie Aboud for negligence surrounding the birth of her child. Honey gave birth by emergency Caesarian section at the Letterkenny General Hospital. Honey claims that after the operation was complete, she started to haemorrhage internally and that the medical staff overlooked these signs of post-surgical bleeding.

Honey lost more than half of her total volume of blood by the time she was returned to the operating theatre to attempt to stop the bleeding, which Honey describes as a “near-death” experience. Honey claims that she now suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of the incident.

Honey further claims that neither her gynaecologist nor the other medical staff at the hospital checked on her, or recognised that she was bleeding after the initial surgery. When her distress was eventually responded to, there was a failure to attach due significance or act appropriately within a reasonable time.

Both of the defendants denied the claim, stating that Honey had been treated in an appropriate manner as soon as her post-surgical bleeding was recognised by medical staff. However, Honey continued with her claim for compensation, and the case was brought to the High Court before Mr Justice Kevin Cross.

The judge was told that no bleeding had been apparent when Mr Aboud had finished the Caesarean Section operation. Mr Aboud said that when he was called back to attend to Honey´s post-surgical bleeding, he performed the operation successfully to stop the haemorrhage. Judge Cross said that no blame could be attributed to Mr Aboud and that charges against the consultant gynaecologist were dropped.

The judge did stated that the length of time that it had taken for medical staff to identify the bleeding and respond to Honey’s distress was inadequate, and he awarded her €25,000 in compensation as a result of the hospital “needlessly” delaying Honey’s revision for surgery by more than an hour.

HSE Issues Apology for Negligence Resulting in Woman’s Death

At the High Court, the HSE has issued an apology for negligence at a hospital which resulted in a woman dying of dehydration.

In January 2010, Eileen Brady was referred to the Cavan General Hospital by her GP after she had been diagnosed with a poor fluid intake which was manifesting in mouth ulcers. Eileen was admitted to hospital, but died a day later. It was revealed that her death was due to dehydration, which caused many of her organs to fail.

An investigation was launched into Eileen’s death, and it was reported that the treatment that Eileen had received for her dehydrated stated was ineffective in helping her, as her veins had collapsed due to the chemotherapy treatment that she was undergoing in a Dublin hospital to treat her stomach cancer.

It was also revealed that the death was entirely preventable had Eileen’s medical charts been examined more closely. If senior, more experienced physicians had been consulted as Eileen’s condition deteriorated further and further, or if Cavan General Hospital had leased with the Dublin hospital that was treating Eileen for her cancer, the condition of her veins could have been revealed and her death could have been prevented.

Martin Brady of Crosskeys, County Cavan-Eileen’s son-sought legal counsel and sued the Cavan General Hospital and the Health Service Executive (HSE) on behalf of his entire family. He claimed that Eileen’s death had been avoidable if the above measures were taken, and that Eileen’s death had caused the family mental distress. The HSE admitted liability for Eileen’s death, and a compensation settlement was agreed out of court, subject to the family receiving a public apology.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine oversaw the hearing at the High Court. A representative of the HSE read out a statement in which the hospital and the HSE both apologised for the negligence care which resulted in Eileen’s death, and the subsequent grief and stress that had been suffered by her friends and family.

Responding on behalf of the family, Aidan Brady said he hoped that both Cavan General Hospital and the HSE had learned from “the grave mistakes” made in the care of his mother “and that no other family would have to go through the trauma and distress that we have suffered”.

Health Secretary Aims to Reduce Cost of Medical Negligence

The minister for health has declared that he aims to reduce the cost of medical negligence to the UK by reducing the number of claims made each year. 

The UK’s Secretary for Health-Jeremy Hunt-has released a statement saying that he wants to reduce health service negligence claims by having those responsible for medical errors acknowledge their mistakes and apologise to patients.

The comments were delivered in a press interview regarding the new guidelines that were sent to every hospital in England and Wales. These guidelines recommended that doctors and nurses “say sorry” in circumstances where there had been a failure in the duty of care. Mr Hunt has suggested that medical professionals in the health service are reluctant to apologise because of their fear of litigation.

Catherine Dixon-chief executive of the NHS Litigation Authority-agreed with the Secretary of Health’s views. She stated that: “Saying sorry is the human and moral thing to do. We won´t say that we are not going to cover you [in the settlement of health service negligence claims] because you’ve said sorry. We are not like a car insurer who will withhold a claim because an apology has been given. Saying sorry is not an admission of legal liability”.

Mr Hunt cited the University of Michigan as an example of how the suggestions work. The University is one of the safest medical centres in the United States, and has seen the number of medical negligence claims for compensation halve in the past decade after adopting the practice of “apologising and learning when you are wrong, explaining and vigorously defending when we are right, and viewing court as a last resort”.

The Health Secretary tweeted that the University of Michigan´s approach was an “interesting example of how being open and saying sorry could slash the litigation bill. [We] want to see similar results in the NHS”. He also stated that half the health service negligence claims received by the NHS Litigation Authority were “without merit”.

Recently released figures show that the number of health service negligence claims received so far this year is expected to increase by a quarter to 12,000, and that around 20 percent of the health service’s annual budget of £22 billion is being set aside to pay compensation to thousands of people who have suffered a loss, an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition due to poor medical care received.