Category Archives: Hospital Negligence Claims in Ireland

Hospital negligence claims in Ireland have to show that you or a loved one suffered a loss, an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition due to the breach in a medical professional´s duty of care. To receive practical and impartial advice about making hospital negligence claims in Ireland, call us today and discuss the circumstances of your injury with an experienced medical negligence solicitor.

Medical Errors Resulting in 1,000 Deaths in Ireland Every Year: Expert

Roger Murray, a legal professional speaking at a medical negligence conference attended by solicitors, medical workers and patients in early September, estimates that 1,000 unnecessary deaths happen annually every year due to medical negligence.

Mr Murray, joint Managing partner at Callan Tansey solicitors, remarked that the most commonly seen incidents relate to surgery (36 per cent) medicine (24 per cent), maternity (23 per cent) and gynaecology (7.5 per cent).

As a medical negligence specialist solicitor who has been involved in many compensation cases, Mr Murray said that though injured patients and families do have empathy for medical professionals who make mistakes “they cannot abide is systemic and repeated errors”.

He issued a plea for thorough investigations when mistakes do happen and referred to many inquest situations where families learned that desktop reviews had been completed following a death, and the results were not disseminated to appropriate staff. A vital improvement opportunity had been missed.

Mr Murray said 160,000 people attending hospitals in Ireland experience injuries due to human mistakes. Mr Murray was speaking at the Pathways to Progress conference on medical negligence and stated that he believes that there is “no compo culture” when it comes to medical negligence compensation actions in this country, saying that what we are seeing in the legal system is just “the top of a very murky iceberg”.

He went on to say that all those injured in medical incidents report it to the HSE. There are notifications of 34,170 “clinical incidents” annually and, of these, 575 resulted in compensation claims against the HSE, a rate lower than 1.7 per cent.

Judge Approves €15 Million Settlement for Birth Negligence Compensation

A judge has approved a settlement of compensation in a birth negligence claim amounting to a total of €15 million.

At Kerry General Hospital in May 2006, a baby boy was born by emergency Caesarean Section. Due to negligence of the staff in charge of his birth, a series of tragic and preventable errors occurred. These included no action was taken on a CTG trace indicating foetal distress, and when a heartbeat that indicated issues in the womb, no consultant obstetrician was informed of the potential dangers. Furthermore, the consultant obstetrician was not made aware of the possibility of foetal hypoxia, and the baby’s birth was avoidably delayed by approximately two hours.

Due to the avoidable delay, the boy endured a lack of oxygen in the womb, resulting in devastating brain damage. He was diagnosed with mixed dyskinetic spastic cerebral palsy. Now ten years of age, he requires 24-hour care by his family. He cannot verbally communicate, and he is confined to a wheelchair. Despite the clear negligence of their staff, the HSE failed to admit liability for nearly a decade. During this time, the boy´s family had to care for him on their own without the support they should have received from the state.

The HSE only admitted liability in 2016 after a nine-year legal battle with the family. They were prompted to admit their fault after being threatened with aggravated damages by the boy’s parents. An interim settlement of €2.7 million compensation for brain damage at birth was rushed through the courts. After further negotiations between the two legal teams, the family returned to court earlier this month for the approval of a final lump sum settlement of compensation for brain damage at birth. The final lump sum was agreed upon as €15 million . As the boy is a minor, the amount had to be approved by a judge to deem it sufficient to the boy’s long-term needs.

Judge Kelly stated that he felt the settlement was “commercial common and legal sense”. He further paid tribute to the boy´s parents for their dedicated care of their son. He further added while no money would compensate the boy and his family, it was the only form of redress the law could provide. He hoped it would give peace of mind that there is a fund to care for the boy´s needs into the future. As the boy is a ward of court, the settlement of compensation for brain damage at birth will be paid into court funds and managed by court authorities.

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.

Court Approves Interim Settlement of Compensation for Child Injuries

The High Court of Dublin has approved a seven-figure settlement of compensation for a child that sustained severe injuries after experiencing medical negligence at the Portiuncula Hospital.

Eoghan Dunne was aged just eleven months old when he was admitted to the Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe in August 2012. The boy, from Co. Offaly, was suffering from severe respiratory distress and an elevated heart rate and within twelve hours his condition had become so severe that he was transferred to Temple Street Children’s Hospital, Dublin.

At the Dublin hospital, Eoghan went into septic shock and suffered from a heart attack. This resulted in a lack of oxygen to his brain and as such he sustained severe brain damage that has rendered him epileptic, with severe visual impairments and an inability to walk or talk. Eoghan was in hospital for six months after the heart attack and will now be reliant on twenty-four hour care for the rest of his life.

An investigation into the nature of Eoghan’s injuries was conducted that showed that he had received substandard care whilst at the Portincula Hospital. The review alleges that the facility was not prepared for cases such as Eoghan’s, and that they failed to give him antibiotics – a direct contradiction of the HSE’s policies regarding sepsis. Additionally, the transfer to Temple Street was unnecessarily protracted because of a lack of “competent staff”.

Ronan and Teresa, Eoghan’s parents, decided to make a claim for medical negligence compensation against the HSE and the Portiuncula Hospital, alleging that their son would not have sustained as severe injuries had the hospital acted appropriately. However, the HSE denied that they were liable and a court hearing was scheduled.

Yet, shortly before the hearing was due to commence, the HSE decided to concede liability for the claim and offered an interim settlement of compensation such that an adequate assessment of Eoghan’s needs could be made. Before this could be awarded, it was subject to approval by the High Court of Dublin.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross oversaw the approval hearing, and after hearing the circumstances of Eoghan’s case, readily approved the settlement. He added that, had the HSE conceded liability earlier, Eoghan could have afforded treatment at a more critical stage. The interim settlement amounts to €2.4 million, and assessments are currently underway to finalise the next settlement.

High Court Awards Compensation for Failure to Diagnose Organ Failure

A man, who has been in a coma since 2011, has been awarded an interim settlement of compensation by the High Court of Dublin for failure by medical staff to diagnose his organ failure.

In 2011, an operation was carried out on Robert Bolton’s oesophagus. The procedure was initially determined a success, but the next day the seventy-one year-old had a heart attack because of respiratory failure.

Despite being transferred to intensive care, Robert’s condition continued to deteriorate. Because of his sepsis, Robert suffered from a hypoxic ischaemic brain injury, leaving him in a coma. Since 2011, Robert has only had a few occasions of minimal consciousness.

Robert’s wife, Angela, sought legal counsel concerning the care her husband received during and after his operation, as well as during his stay in the intensive care unit at the hospital. She proceeded to make a claim against the hospital for their failure to diagnose her husband’s organ failure, claiming that they did not adequately diagnose Robert’s sepsis or adhere to the criteria of systemic inflammatory response.

The compensation claim was disputed by the hospital, despite an admittance for partial liability regarding the substandard level of care Robert received at the facility.

Negotiations ensued between the parties, which lead to the determination of an interim settlement of compensation amounting to €550,000. This figure would pay for two years’ worth of the specialist care Robert now requires.

However, as the claim was being made on behalf of someone unable to represent themselves in court, the settlement had to be approved by the High Court. Mr Justice Kevin Cross oversaw proceedings, hearing of how the hospital’s alleged failings lead to the deterioration of Robert’s condition and how it has impacted his family.

Though Angela assured Judge Cross that no amount of money would compensate for what happened to her husband, she added the it would act as a reassurance that he was getting adequate care. The judge approved the settlement before commenting that it was the result of hard bargaining. He finished by wishing Angela and her family the best for the future.

Judge Barton Lends Support to Structured Payment Systems for Hospital Negligence Compensation Settlements

Hospital negligence compensation settlements may be resolved by a structured payment system in future after High Court judge shows support for the idea.

Several high-profile High Court judges have previously commented that there is a need for legislation to enable structured payment systems for hospital negligence compensation settlements-including Mr Justice John Quirke, Ms Justice Mary Irvine, and Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill. They suggested that the way in which such claims are settled at the moment can be a lottery on the basis of the anticipated life expectancy of a seriously injured victim.

Mr Justice Bernard Barton added his support to the movement last month, whilst presiding over the O’Neill vs National Maternity Hospital, a case involving a young girl born in the hospital in 2007. She suffers from cerebral palsy as a result of negligence by the hospital staff in regards to her birth. The defendants admit liability for her injuries, and wants to make an interim settlement of compensation. However, the mother of the young girl wants to a full settlement to be offered. Neither party can agree as to how much compensation the girl is entitled to.

The hospital wants to make an interim settlement of compensation as there is considerable conflict between parties about the costs of the girl’s future needs and potential loss of earnings. Therefore, offering an interim settlement would allow to compile a report over the next ten years to more accurately assess the correct settlement figure. However, her mother declined this settlement, on the grounds that her daughter may suffer psychological harm during ten years of continuous assessment.

The judge and both parties agreed that if structured payment systems were in place, it would be easier to resolve the dispute over how much compensation the girl-or any catastrophically injured plaintiff-should receive. Negotiations in this case continue, with hopes of them reaching an end in the near future.

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.

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.

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.