Widower Compensated for Delayed Operation on Spouse

The compensation claim made by a widower after a delay in operating lead to the death of his wife has been resolved by the High Court.

The claim was made by Patrick Malone, from County Carlow, after his wife Helen (aged sixty) died at St. Luke’s General Hospital on the 12th January 2006.

Helen had a bowel condition, and as such was sent to the hospital for treatment of the condition. However, the procedure was postponed several times, meaning Helen “languished in pain”. When the surgery eventually was performed, Helen tragically died just four days later.

An inquest into the circumstances of Helen’s death followed, and it determined that she died because of systemic sepsis and multiple organ failure, caused in turn by a perforated bowel. The inquest revealed that, had the surgery been conducted sooner, Helen probably would have lived.

Patrick sought legal counsel and subsequently made a claim for compensation for his wife’s death against the Health Service Executives (HSE). However, though the George Nessim, Helen’s consultant, was determined to be guilty by the Irish Medical Council, the HSE did not accept liability for Helen’s death.

The case was then to be heard in court, but just before the first scheduled hearing, the HSE conceded liability for Helen’s death because of the delay in operating, and negotiations ensued between the parties. Patrick was offered a compensation settlement of €165,000 for the anguish he and his six children suffered because of Helen’s death.

However, the settlement still needed to be approved by a judge, and after five postponements in the date of the hearing, the case was heard by Mr Justice Ryan. An apology was read to Helen’s family by a representative of St Luke’s Hospital, and the hospital acknowledges that Helen had received a substandard level of care, leading to her untimely death.

Judge Ryan approved the compensation settlement before commending the parties for settling “a difficult, painful and tragic case”.