Six-Figure Compensation Settlement for Medical Instruments Left in Patient

A compensation settlement of €140,000 has been awarded to a woman after a vaginal swab was left inside her after the birth of her child. 

Claire Lalor, from Swords in Co. Dublin, gave birth to her child on the 24th December 2012 at the National Maternity Hospital. Claire was discharged three days after the birth, but returned twice within the next two weeks as she experiencing pain in her abdomen and had a malodorous vagina. 

However, on neither visit to the maternity hospital was Claire internally examined, though on her second visit she was prescribed antibiotics to clear what medical staff expected to be an infection. However, the smell became worse and Claire continued to experience severe pain. On the 16th January she returned to the hospital and was eventually examined, after which it was discovered that a vaginal swab had been left inside Claire after her labour. 

Despite the removal of the swab, Claire continued to feel pain and discomfort. After her visit to the hospital on the 18th January, she was discharged after a diagnosis of post-natal depression. Yet her condition deteriorated, and Claire began to suffer from sweating, chills and diarrhoea. 

Claire then visited Beaumont Hospital, where she was told that she had a Clostridium difficile infection, which was contracted as a result of the unnecessary diagnosis of antibiotics. After her recovery, Claire 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, though they contested the extent to which Claire suffered psychologically. They argued that her symptoms could all be attributed to post-natal depression, rather than the trauma of the forgotten swab. There was no agreement over the amount of compensation to which Claire was entitled, and as such the case proceeded to the High Court of Dublin for an assessment of damages. 

Mr Justice Kevin Cross oversaw proceedings in the High Court, where he agreed with the consensus at the hospital 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. 

However, Judge Cross conceded that – had Claire received adequate post-natal care – her recovery from post-natal depression would have been faster, and that 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.