Widow Compensated for Husband’s Misdiagnosed Meningitis

A woman, whose husband died after his meningitis was misdiagnosed for constipation, is to be compensated for his death following a hearing.

When Philip Morrissey, aged thirty-nine from Kilkenny, visited his GP on the 26th May 2010, he was presenting with a high temperature, a headache and a pain in his ear. The doctor presently referred him to the Accident and Emergency Department of Kilkenny’s St Luke’s Hospital, where he was admitted to the hospital with a high pulse and an increasing intolerance to light.

Many hours after Mr Morrissey was taken into care, Mrs Gail Morrissey raised her concerns with the attending staff that her husband was drowsy and disoriented. However, she was informed by the staff that her husband was suffering from constipation. The next morning, Mr Morrissey was found in his bed, having suffered a cardiac arrest during the night. A later investigation discovered that the heart attack was caused by streptococcal pneumonia meningitis.

Mrs Morrissey sought legal counsel, and proceeded to make a claim against the HSE for her husband’s misdiagnosis. In her claim, she stated that no doctor had attended to her husband since the late afternoon before his death, and that the staff that had seen him earlier on did not accurately diagnose his condition, failing to consider that his symptoms were indicative of meningitis.

An investigation into the circumstances of Mr Morrissey’s death ensued, and after the HSE admitted liability, the parties began to negotiate a compensation settlement. A figure of €455,000 was agreed upon by the parties, though due to the nature of Mr Morrissey’s death, the case had to proceed to the High Court before the settlement could be awarded. There, it was overseen by Mr Justice Michael Hanna.

In the court, details of Mr Morrissey’s illness and subsequent death were given, and a statement was read to the Morrissey family by a representative of the HSE. Judge Hanna proceeded to approve the compensation settlement, adding that it was a “huge tragedy” for the family, and while the settlement would never be a compensation for Mr Morrissey’s loss, it was the best that could be achieved by the law.