Hospital Negligence in Ireland

Claiming compensation for hospital negligence in Ireland is often extremely complicated for although you know that a mistake has occurred and an injury sustained, determining where the mistake occurred and proving that “on the balance of probabilities” it could have been avoided can be problematic. Unless a hospital admits its mistake immediately, a prolonged investigation and expert medical testimony may be required to demonstrate hospital negligence in Ireland. If you or a loved one have sustained a loss or injury due to hospital negligence in Ireland, you are advised to speak with one of our courteous and professional solicitors for impartial and accurate advice at the earliest possible opportunity.

Wrongful Birth Compensation of €1.8m Awarded Following Incorrect Foetus Test

Posted on: June 21st, 2018

The first ever wrongful birth case in Ireland has been settled for an interim payment of €1.8m after a mother, who is a carrier of a rare genetic condition,  claimed she was deprived of her right to travel for an abortion.

Her baby was delivered with the same disabling condition after a prenatal test on the foetus for that condition came back with a normal result.

This is the first ever case for wrongful birth, based upon the right to travel, that has been successful at the High Court.

The mother advised the High Court that she had planned to exercise her constitutional right to travel to the England for an abortion if the test had returned results showing that her unborn child had the same debilitating genetic condition. However, her child was born with the this condition and now requires 24-hour care. The mother alleges that, based on the test results, she was deprived of the ability to have an informed consent and to make an informed choice in respect of the continuance of her pregnancy.

Legal Counsel for the mother, Oonagh McCrann SC, told the High Court that the parents proceeded happily and joyfully with the pregnancy after the normal result came back on the test. Subsequently, they experienced much shock and grief when the baby was delivered and found to have the rare genetic condition with very significant and profound disability.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross placed a barring order in relation to reporting of details that may identify the mother and child. The mother had taken the wrongful birth compensation action against the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, and Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Dublin. Complete liability in the case was officially accepted by latter on June 13 last.

It said that “in the particular circumstances of this case and in light of the outcome of the recent referendum repealing the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution”, liability was accepted and the public policy defence was withdrawn.

Mr Justice Cross, noting liability had been accepted, said he would have thought the result of the referendum had nothing to do with this.


Nursing Negligence Claim Settled at Court Hearing

Posted on: September 4th, 2017

A nursing negligence claim, made by a woman who fractured her spine when she fell out of bed, has been settled at a hearing of the Circuit Civil Court.

The plaintiff – a seventy-nine year old woman from Finglas in Dublin – had attended the city´s Mater Hospital for day surgery in April 2015, and was recovering from the general anaesthetic, when she attempted to get out of bed and fell – fracturing her spine in the fall.

The woman – who spent almost a month in the Mater Hospital recovering from her injuries before being transferred to the Clontarf Orthopaedic Hospital for further treatment – now has to wear a lumbar brace and use a Zimmer frame to support herself when she walks.

Having previously led an independent life, and now requiring a considerable level of care from her daughter, the woman made a nursing negligence claim against the Mater Hospital, alleging that it had failed to adhere to its fall prevention policy.

The nursing negligence claim was heard by Judge James O´Donohoe at the Circuit Civil Court, who was told by the plaintiff´s barrister the woman should have been closely monitored following a fall at her home the previous November. An expert witness on behalf of the witness testified the hospital should have been aware of her fall and recorded it in the woman´s care plan.

Judge O´Donohoe heard from the head of nursing, who explained to the judge how the accident had happened, but could not explain why the hospital´s fall prevention policy had not been adhered to or why the nurse who attended the woman after her fall had not been called to give evidence. The judge told the court the absence of the attending nurse spoke volumes.

After hearing from the plaintiff´s daughter that her mother was not the woman she had been prior to her fall, Judge O´Donohoe found in the woman´s favour – awarding her €58,500 in settlement of her nursing negligence claim, but placing a stay on €28,500 of the settlement pending an appeal from the Mater Hospital.

Failures and Delays in Diagnoses Top Emergency Room Negligence Claims

Posted on: June 5th, 2017

Failures and delays in diagnosing illnesses and injuries accounted for more than half of the emergency room negligence claims made between 2010 and 2014.

Last week the State Claims Agency released its review of “National Clinical Incidents, Claims and Costs” covering the period between 2010 and 2014. In the publication, the nature of clinical incidents is categorised into medical, surgical, maternity, disability or elderly care. Within each category, the reasons for the most common clinical negligence claims are listed.

Within the medical negligence category, a sub-category has been created to account for clinical incidents in hospital emergency rooms and the claims that result when an adverse outcome has occurred. At the top of the list is the failure to diagnose an illness or injury and, once the number of delayed diagnoses is taken into account, the two combined account for more than 60% of emergency room negligence claims.

Overall there were more than four times as many claims for a failure or delay in diagnosing an injury or illness as there were in the second most common reason for emergency room negligence claims – the failure to treat or a delay in treatment. Other motives provided for emergency room negligence claims included foreign objects left inside a patient, soft tissue damage during the administration of treatment and avoidable reactions to known allergens.

The reasons given for their being such a high proportion of emergency room negligence claims related to diagnostic failures were the failure to perform a radiograph (or interpret the results correctly) in the case of a fracture, and incomplete medical examinations in other illness and injury scenarios. Other areas of concern included incomplete patient note taking and a lack of communication.

The aim of the review – according to the review´s lead author Dr Dubhfeasa Slattery – is to improve patient safety by analysing the most common areas of failure and implementing measures to improve patient care. It is hoped that this process – described by Dr Slattery as a “learning health system” – has a positive effect in relation to the treatment received in hospital emergency rooms and leads to a reduction in emergency room negligence claims.

Boy´s Claim for an Erb´s Palsy Birth Injury Resolved

Posted on: February 20th, 2017

A boy´s claim for an Erb´s palsy birth injury against the HSE has been resolved at the High Court with the approval of a €530,000 compensation settlement.

The six-year-old boy was born via a natural delivery on 22nd March 2010 at Kerry General Hospital despite his mother having requested a birth by Caesarean section because of his size in the womb. During the delivery process, the boy´s shoulder got trapped in the birth canal and he had to be extracted with the assistance of a vacuum cup.

Due to the force applied to free his shoulder, the boy suffered a brachial plexus injury and has since been diagnosed with Erb´s palsy. Due to his birth injury, the boy has a weak right arm that will permanently affect him for the rest of his life. After seeking legal advice, the boy´s father made a claim for an Erb´s palsy birth injury against the HSE on his son´s behalf.

The Health Service Executive (HSE) initially denied liability for the boy´s birth injury but after a period of negotiation agreed to a €530,000 settlement of the claim for an Erb´s palsy birth injury without an admission of liability. As the claim had been made on behalf of a child, the proposed settlement had to be approved by a judge to ensure it was in the child´s best interests.

Consequently at the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told that the boy had been identified as a big baby two months before his birth and that his mother had requested a Caesarean section delivery on two consultations and again when she was admitted to Kerry General Hospital in labour.

Judge Cross also heard that the boy attends mainstream school, has learned to write with his left hand and is very good at maths. An expert witness testified that the boy is unable to tie shoes or close buttons and will struggle at sports, after which the judge approved the settlement of the boy´s claim for an Erb´s palsy birth injury against the HSE and wished the family well for the future.

Man Recovers Compensation for a Loss of Sight due to Hospital Negligence

Posted on: October 25th, 2016

A man has recovered a six-figure settlement of compensation for a loss of sight due to hospital negligence after suffering an avoidable detached retina.

The man – identified only as “Andrew” – attended the ophthalmology department of his local hospital complaining of shadowy black dots (“floaters”) obscuring the vision in his right eye. He was examined and diagnosed with Posterior Vitreous Detachment – a usually harmless condition that occurs as jelly-like substance of the vitreous changes with age.

Andrew was advised not to be concerned with the condition as it was something that frequently occurred to people of his age. He was discharged without any further information about his diagnosis and so, when his eyesight started to deteriorate, he thought nothing of it and believed it was connected to the Posterior Vitreous Detachment.

However, Andrew should have be told that if the shadowy black dots continued for more than six months or he suffered other eyesight problems he should return to the hospital immediately. Posterior Vitreous Detachment is a condition that the brain adjusts to over time, so people who suffer from it should see an improvement over time rather than a deterioration.

Unfortunately, by the time that Andrew attended a follow-up appointment, the tear in his retina was so significant that doctors were unable to save the sight in his right eye over the course of two operations. Due to the negligence of the hospital´s ophthalmologist, Andrew´s eyesight is no longer sufficient to meet the requisite driving standard and he has had to give up his driving licence.

Andrew sought legal advice and claimed compensation for a loss of sight due to hospital negligence. In his claim Andrew alleged that, had he been advised of the risk of a detached retina and warned to be aware of the symptoms, he would have returned to the hospital much sooner, treatment could have been provided in good time and the sight in his right eye saved.

After an investigation into the standard of care he received, a six-figure settlement of compensation for a loss of sight due to hospital negligence was agreed to account for the significant impact the error had on his quality of life and his loss of independence.

Hospital Negligence Claim against Kerry General Resolved at High Court

Posted on: February 17th, 2015

A hospital negligence claim against Kerry General has been resolved at the High Court with the approval of an interim compensation settlement.

On April 22nd 2011, Skye Worthington was born at the Kerry General Hospital after her mother – Colleen, from Castlegregory in County Kerry – had been administered syntocinon to speed up her labour. The syntocinon had the desired effect of accelerating Colleen´s contractions, but a prolonged deceleration of Skye´s heartbeat in the womb was ignored.

Skye – now three years of age – suffered brain damage due to being starved of oxygen in the womb and now suffers from cerebral palsy. Skye has difficulty sitting still, has to be fed through a tube and can only communicate with her eyes. An investigation into her birth revealed that if she had been delivered just fifteen minutes earlier, Skye would have suffered no birth injuries at all.

Through her mother, Skye made a hospital negligence claim against Kerry General and the HSE – alleging that her injuries were the direct result of hospital negligence in the maternity department of the hospital. The HSE admitted liability and an interim settlement of €2.32 million was negotiated pending an assessment of Skye´s future requirements.

At the High Court, Mr Justice Kevin Cross heard a statement read to Skye´s parents in which the HSE and Kerry General apologised unreservedly for the errors that led to Skye´s birth injuries. The statement also said that lessons had been learned from a review of Skye´s birth in which her parents had participated. Mr Justice Kevin Cross described the apology as “out of the ordinary”.

The judge then explained to Skye´s parents that the interim settlement of the hospital negligence claim against Kerry General was for three years. Once an assessment of Skye´s future requirements had been conducted, the family would either have the choice of a lump sum final settlement of the hospital negligence claim against Kerry General or – subject to legislation being introduced – annual periodic payments.

Interim Settlement of Birth Injuries Claim Approved

Posted on: December 15th, 2014

An interim settlement of a birth injuries claim has been approved at the High Court after a judge denied a request for a final compensation payment to be made.

Connor Corroon (19) from Mallow in County Cork was born at the Cork City general Hospital on February 6th 1995 after being starved of oxygen in the womb. As a result of the hospital´s negligence, Connor now suffers from cerebral palsy and is permanently disabled. He cannot speak and relies on a wheelchair for his mobility.

Through his mother – Judith Corroon – Connor made a birth injuries claim for compensation against the hospital and, in 2010, he was the first plaintiff to be awarded an interim settlement of compensation for catastrophic injuries pending the introduction of structured payment legislation.

Connor received a second interim settlement of his birth injuries claim last year and was due to receive a third payment this year as legislation for structured payments has yet to be introduced. On Connor´s behalf, his mother requested that this payment be a full, final payment as Connor has to undergo a series of assessments each time he re-appears in court.

At the High Court, Judith Corroon explained to Mr Justice Bernard Barton that she wanted her son to be able to get on with his life and not have it constantly interrupted for assessments by different experts. Claiming that Connor´s existence at present was akin to “being in a fishbowl”, Judith said that she was hoping that Connor would be able to go to college despite his disability.

However Judge Barton denied the application for a lump sum payment, stating that were the funds to run out later, it would be catastrophic for Connor. Instead he approved another interim settlement of the birth injuries claim for €1.45 million, bringing the total compensation paid to date up to €3.25 million.

Explaining 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 periodic 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.

Alleged Negligence at Care Home Revealed by Primetime Investigation Unit

Posted on: December 10th, 2014

Alleged negligence at a care home in County Mayo has been revealed by RTÉ´s Primetime investigation unit.

The RTÉ documentary – “Inside Bungalow Three” – centred on the alleged failure to provide an acceptable standard of care for three residents of the Áras Attracta care home in Swinford, County Mayo. Filmed by an undercover reporter posing as a work experience student, the documentary showed appalling scenes of neglect in which residents were humiliated by the staff paid to care for them.

The alleged negligence at the care home for the intellectually disabled provoked Taoiseach Enda Kenny to describe the abuse shown in the documentary as “sickening”, and Tony O´Brien – the Director General of the HSE to comment that the level of care fell “well below the standards that we expect in the health services”.

The HSE has launched two investigations into the alleged negligence – one focusing on the allegations made in the documentary, the second on the Áras Attracta care home in general. An investigation has also been launched by the Gardaí and the Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) – the body responsible for monitoring standards in care homes for the intellectually disabled.

Tony O´Brien also apologised to the residents and their families for the alleged negligence at the care home. He said that the HSE did not wish to “pre-empt the findings of an independent investigation” but that it has taken several immediate actions to “guarantee that a safe and caring environment exists for the residents of Bungalow Three”. Nine staff at the care home have been suspended since the documentary was made.

HSE National Director for Social Care Pat Healy – who was given advanced warning of the alleged negligence at the care home – said that the claims “should they be proved to be founded, are wholly unacceptable in any facility that provides care to vulnerable people”. Lorraine Dempsey from the Special Needs Parents Association added: Absolute responsibility in any setting goes right up to the top level of management, and in this case we are talking about the HSE”.

Cerebral Palsy Compensation Settlement Approved Despite Lack of Proof

Posted on: September 26th, 2014

The settlement of a teenager´s cerebral palsy compensation claim has been approved at the High Court despite there being a lack of proof over causation.

Sixteen-year-old Emma O´Donnell was born at the National Maternity Hospital in Holles Street, Dublin, in June 1998. Some time after her birth by suction, Emma started to display the symptoms of cerebral palsy, turned blue and started to have seizures. She now requires full-time care due an intellectual disability and behavioural problems.

Since 2007, Emma has been cared for by her father – James Forde from Aklow in County Wicklow – after her mother was diagnosed with a bi-polar condition and institutionalised. James gave up his job to look after his daughter and made a claim for cerebral palsy compensation on her daughter´s behalf.

James and the solicitor representing Emma encountered problems in establishing causation – as the links between the care Emma had received before and after her birth could not be directly attributed to her cerebral palsy condition. The National Maternity Hospital put a value of €6 million on the claim by the HSE – but only if there was full proof of causation.

Eventually a compromise was negotiated in which the National Maternity Hospital would settle the cerebral palsy compensation claim for €3 million without admission of liability – subject to the approval of a judge. Consequently, the tale of Emma´s tragic birth injury and her life since was told to Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns at the High Court in Dublin.

The judge was told that the cerebral palsy compensation claim had been brought so late in Emma´s life due to the difficulty of establishing causation, and Judge Kearns agreed that – if the case went to a full trial – it may not be successful. The judge was also given a letter of consent from the hospital, agreeing to settle Emma´s cerebral palsy compensation claim for €3 million.

Having reviewed the case, Judge Kearns approved the settlement of the cerebral palsy compensation claim for €3 million – describing the care that James had provided for Emma since 2007 as “heroic”.

Judge Allows Claim for Medication Side Effects to Go Ahead after Denying an Application to Dismiss

Posted on: August 14th, 2014

A High Court judge has allowed a claim for medication side effects to go ahead after the company who manufactured the medication applied to have the case thrown out.

Lorna Savage was granted the go-ahead to proceed with her compensation claim for medication side effects after a hearing at the High Court in which the manufacturer of the medication – Pfizer – had applied to have the case to be thrown due to the length of time that had passed since the claim was first filed.

Hearing the application for dismissal at the High Court, Mr Justice George Birmingham was told how Lorna (now 43 years of age) from Cobh in County Cork had been prescribed the steroid Deltacortril in 1997 to treat the skin disorder vasculitis – a condition which damaged blood vessels cluster together and cause an irritable rash on the surface of the skin.

Within a few years of taking Deltacortril, Lorna´s condition had deteriorated due to her developing Avascular Necrosis – a rare but established side effect to Deltacortril, which prevents blood reaching the bones of the knee and hip joints and causes the bone tissue to die – ultimately resulting in the knee and hip bones collapsing entirely.

After four years of being prescribed Deltacortril, Lorna had both knees and one hip replaced, but the Avascular Necrosis side effect had spread to such an extent that she is now reliant on a wheelchair for her mobility and has to manage the constant pain of the disease with morphine.

Judge Birmingham heard that, after seeking legal advice, Lorna made a compensation claim for medication side effects against the two doctors who had prescribed the Deltacortril for her – GP Dr. Michael Madigan and her consultant doctor at the Cork University Hospital – Dr. M Molloy.

In her claim against the estate of Dr Madigan (who died in 1999), Lorna alleged that he had failed to fully investigate her skin condition and had negligently prescribed Deltacortril when he was (or should have been) aware of the potential side effects.  In the case against Dr Molloy, Lorna alleged the consultant had acted negligently by failing to recognise the symptoms of Avascular Necrosis.

Lorna also made a claim for medication side effects compensation against the pharmaceutical company Pfizer; alleging that the company had failed to provide a warning in the literature accompanying the Deltacortril tablets that their continued use could cause Avascular Necrosis, and by neglecting to advise against drinking alcohol while taking the tablets.

The estate of Lorna´s GP, the HSE (of behalf of Dr Molloy and the Cork University Hospital) and Pfizer individually denied negligence in response to Lorna´s claim for medication side effects compensation, and Pfizer applied to have Lorna´s claim dismissed on the grounds of “an inordinate and inexcusable delay” in bringing the case to court.

However, after hearing that the delay in bringing the case to court was due to Lorna being unable to instruct her solicitors as she had recently undergone seven major operations, Mr Justice George Birmingham ruled that the delay was “excusable” and denied Pfizer´s application to dismiss – saying that Lorna´s claim for medication side effects compensation would be listed for a full court hearing later in the year.

Compensation for the Misdiagnosis of a Knee Fracture Approved at the High Court

Posted on: May 2nd, 2014

A woman, who was unable to compete in the Special Olympics due to a medical error, has had the settlement of her compensation for the misdiagnosis of a knee fracture approved at a High Court hearing.

The Special Olympics World Games is the world’s largest sporting event for children and adults with intellectual disabilities and, in May 2009, Amy Rose McGowan from Trim in County Meath was in training for the Games that were scheduled to take place in the summer of 2011 in Athens.

Unfortunately, while running in a training race, Amy Rose fell and injured her knee and was taken to Our Lady´s Hospital in Navan; where she was diagnosed with a soft tissue injury after having an x-ray, and had her knee strapped for support.

A few months later Amy Rose attended her GP complaining of a pain in her knee. It was discovered that she had sustained a depressed fracture of the knee in the training accident which had been overlooked by doctors at the hospital.

Unfortunately for Amy Rose the correct diagnosis was made too late for corrective surgery and – Mr Justice Michael Peart at the High Court in Dublin heard – it is likely that Amy Rose will require knee replacement operations in the future.

Because of her intellectual disability, Amy Rose (31) claimed compensation for the misdiagnosis of a knee fracture through her mother – Charlotte McGowan – against the Health Service Executive (HSE), alleging that the care, diagnosis and treatment provided by Our Lady’s Hospital had been negligent.

The HSE acknowledged that the x-ray of Amy Rose´s depressed fracture had been overlooked at the hospital and liability was admitted for her knee injury. A €142,000 settlement of compensation for the misdiagnosis of a knee fracture was agreed; but, as Amy Rose suffered an intellectual disability, the settlement had to be first approved by a judge.

At the High Court, Mr Justice Michael Peart heard how before her accident Amy Rose had been a successful swimmer and athlete.  Approving the settlement the judge said he was “very impressed and full of admiration” for Amy Rose and he wished her a happy life with her family before adjourning the hearing.

Woman´s Claim for Emotional Trauma due to Blood Test Error Unresolved

Posted on: April 16th, 2014

A woman´s claim for an emotional trauma due to a blood test error remains unresolved after the High Court judge hearing her case reserved judgement on the claim.

Ms Justice Bronagh O’Hanlon at the High Court reserved judgement for a later date after hearing how thirty-five year old Michelle Kenny had attended St James Hospital in Dublin on 17th August 2010 due to feeling unwell on her return from a holiday in Majorca.

The judge was told that Michelle had undergone a chest x-ray and an ECG at the hospital and was subsequently admitted as an inpatient as her doctors believed she may have a blood clot on her lung. Michelle remained in hospital for a week and was discharged without the cause of her symptoms being diagnosed.

On October 6th, Michelle returned to the hospital´s Outpatients Department where blood was taken to test for the possibility of tuberculosis, and Michelle was also asked to consent to a HIV test. Michelle agreed to be tested for HIV but when she was telephoned the following week with the results, she was devastated to be told that she was HIV positive.

During her evidence at the High Court, Michelle told Judge O´Hanlon “I thought I was going to die, that I had no future” and she continued to explain that, even though subsequent tests showed Michelle not to have the HIV virus, she withdrew from her usual social activities and was diagnosed as suffering from nervous shock.

When it was revealed that Michelle had been given the wrong person´s test results, she sought professional legal advice and made a claim for an emotional trauma due to a blood test error against St James Hospital. The hospital disputed Michelle´s claim on the grounds that the error had been realised in a short space of time, that Michelle had been informed immediately, and that she had suffered neither loss nor injury as a result of the mistake.

After hearing evidence from both parties, Judge O´Hanlon reserved judgement on Michelle´s claim for an emotional trauma due to a blood test error and adjourned the case to be resolved on a future date.

Woman Awarded Compensation for Post-Surgical Bleeding after Caesarean Operation

Posted on: March 4th, 2014

A woman has been awarded compensation for post-surgical bleeding which, she claimed, resulted in a near-death experience.

Honey Larkin from Letterkenny, County Donegal, brought her action against the Health Service Executive (HSE) and consultant gynaecologist Eddie Aboud following the birth of her child by Caesarean section at the Letterkenny General Hospital in January 2008.

Honey alleged that, after her operation, she began to haemorrhage internally and that the signs of her post-surgical bleeding were overlooked by the medical staff. She claimed to have suffered a near-death experience due to losing more than half of her blood volume by the time she was returned to the operating theatre for a second surgical procedure to stop the bleeding.

Claiming that she now suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder due to the near-death experience, Honey alleged that neither the staff at the hospital nor her gynaecologist checked or recognised she was bleeding after the initial surgery, and that – when her distress was responded to – there was a failure to attach due significance or act appropriately within a reasonable time.

Both the HSE and the gynaecologist denied Honey´s claims, and said that she was treated appropriately in a timely manner once her post-surgical bleeding had been recognised. However, Honey continued with her claim for compensation for post-surgical bleeding, and the case went before Mr Justice Kevin Cross at the High Court.

In the court hearing Judge Cross was told that no bleeding had been apparent when Mr Aboud had finished the Caesarean operation; but, 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 he was dismissed from the action.

However, the judge did find issue with the length of time it had taken for medical staff to identify that a problem existed and respond to Honey´s distress, and he awarded her €25,000 compensation for post-surgical bleeding for the hospital “needlessly” delaying Honey´s revision surgery for more than an hour.

Family Receive Undisclosed Compensation for Fatal Lack of Care in Hospital

Posted on: February 13th, 2014

A family has received an undisclosed settlement of compensation for a fatal lack of care in hospital that resulted in the death of a 65-year-old wife and mother.

In January 2010, Eileen Brady was referred to the Cavan General Hospital by her GP following his diagnosis that a poor fluid intake was causing Eileen to suffer mouth ulcers. Eileen was admitted to the hospital on 5th January, but the rehydration treatment she was administered was ineffective due her veins collapsing, and she died the following day due to multiple organ failure.

An investigation into Eileen´s death revealed that the weakest in her veins was attributable to the chemotherapy treatment she was undergoing in a Dublin hospital to treat her stomach cancer, and that her death could have been avoided had her medical charts been examined more closely and her situation monitored more carefully.

Eileen´s son – Martin Brady from Crosskeys in County Cavan – sued the Cavan General Hospital and Health Service Executive (HSE) on behalf of the family, claiming compensation for a fatal lack of care in hospital which could have been prevented if the hospital in Cavan had liaised with the hospital in Dublin at which Eileen was receiving her treatment for cancer.

The HSE admitted liability for Eileen´s death, and an undisclosed settlement of compensation for a fatal lack of care in hospital was agreed out of court. However, the settlement came with the proviso that a representative of the HSE read out an apology in court, and therefore Ms Justice Mary Irvine and Eileen´s family assembled in the High Court to hear the public apology.

At the High Court, a statement was read in which the Cavan general Hospital and the HSE apologised for the fatal lack of care which resulted in Eileen´s death, and for the emotional trauma that had needlessly been suffered by her family and friends.

Replying on behalf of the family, Aidan Brady said he hoped that both the defendants 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”.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine extended her personal sympathy to Eileen´s family and closed the hearing.

Family Settles Compensation Claim for Injuries due to a Mismanaged Birth

Posted on: November 27th, 2013

A family from County Laois have settled their compensation claim for injuries due the mismanaged birth of their daughter – Roisin – who suffers from cerebral palsy due to medical negligence.

On 10th November 2001, Mary Conroy attended the Midland Regional Hospital in Portloaise believing that her membranes had ruptured. She was reassured that they had not and sent home. Three days later, Mary attended the clinic of Dr John Corristine – her private consultant obstetrician attached to the Midland Regional Hospital – for an ultrasound.

Mary insisted that she be admitted to hospital following the ultrasound, and underwent a CTG scan which failed to show evidence of contractions. Dr Corristine ordered the administration of medicine to help induce labour, but the consultant was not seen again – either throughout Mary´s labour or during the birth of her daughter.

Roisin Conroy was born on 14th November 2001, but in a poor condition and suffered seizures shortly after her birth. She was transferred to a hospital in Dublin, but her condition failed to improve and Roisin was diagnosed with dyskinetic cerebral palsy. As a result of her birth injuries, Roisin (now 12) is permanently disabled and can only communicate through her eyes.

Mary and Kevin Conroy both gave up their jobs to care for their daughter; believing for many years that they had been “just unlucky”, as no explanation for Roisin´s injuries had been provided either by the hospital or by Dr Corristine. However, after seeking legal advice and initiating an investigation into the circumstances prior to Roisin´s delivery, the couple discovered that they were entitled to make a compensation claim for injuries due to a mismanaged birth.

Their compensation claim for injuries due to a mismanaged birth was filed in 2011, but the Health Service Executive (HSE) only admitted liability five weeks before a hearing was scheduled to take place. The Conroy´s legal advisors then negotiated a preliminary settlement of compensation which would cover the cost of Roisin´s care and provide medical and educational support for the next two years – in lieu of a structured compensation system being introduced.

At the High Court in Dublin, Ms Justice Mary Irvine approved the interim settlement of €2.6 million after an apology had been read out to the family by Dr Corristine and a representative of the HSE. However, in a statement made outside the court after the compensation claim for injuries due to a mismanaged birth had been heard, Kevin Conroy said that if the HSE had admitted liability earlier, Roisin would have received a better level of care which would have improved her condition sooner.

Widow Settles Claim for Death due to Conflict of Medication

Posted on: October 15th, 2013

A woman has settled her claim for death due to a conflict of medication against the Health Service Executive (HSE) after a hearing at the High Court.

Margaret Devereux from Greenrath in County Tipperary brought the claim against HSE following the death of her husband in March 2008; allegedly due to a conflict of medication between the diabetic treatment he was already taking and the fusidic acid he was prescribed after being diagnosed with septic arthritis in a toe on his right foot.

The High Court heard that John Devereux had attended the South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel in January 2008 with an infection in a toe on his right foot. Having diagnosed that the infection was due to septic arthritis, doctors prescribed Sodium Fusidate – a medicine commonly prescribed for bacterial skin infections.

However, John´s condition deteriorated and, on February 15th 2008, he was admitted into South Tipperary General Hospital with pains in both legs and arms. The court was told that John had developed rhabdmoloysis – a condition in which the muscles break down – allegedly due to the interaction between his existing diabetic treatment and the Sodium Fusidate he had been prescribed.

Despite receiving treatment as an inpatient, John´s condition deteriorated further and he developed acute renal failure. He was transferred to Cork University Hospital on February 21st, but he failed to recover and died in hospital on March 2nd.

After seeking legal advice, John´s widow – Margaret – made a compensation claim for death due to a conflict of medication against the HSE, claiming that the hospital was in breach of its duty to recognise that the diabetic treatment and the medication prescribed for John´s swollen toe could interact and cause the muscle break down.

It was also alleged that medical staff at South Tipperary General Hospital failed to recognise the muscle condition immediately, despite John displaying the appropriate symptoms of rhabdmoloysis, and had administered further dosages of Sodium Fusidate. Margaret also claimed that, following John´s death, she suffered avoidable mental anguish, loss and damage.

The HSE denied that John´s treatment had been negligent, but made an offer to settle Margaret´s claim for death due to a conflict of medication amounting to €45,000. Margaret accepted the settlement on advice and, at the High Court in Dublin, the settlement was approved by Mrs Justice Mary Irvine, who added that it may have been difficult to establish liability in this tragic case had it gone to court.

Judge Reduces Award of Legal Costs to Plaintiff due to Unsubstantiated Claims

Posted on: September 6th, 2013

A High Court judge has reduced an award of legal costs, payable to a woman who was awarded compensation for medical negligence in June, due to other unsubstantiated claims.

The case of Madeline Wright v. the Health Service Executive and the Mater Misericordiae Hospital was heard in the High Court over a three week period in May and, at the conclusion of the hearing, Madeline Wright was awarded compensation against the HSE on the grounds that a delay in treating her spinal injury had constituted negligence.

However, whereas a successful plaintiff usually receives an award of legal costs to cover any expenses associated with bringing a claim to court, in this case Mrs Justice Mary Irvine determined that three specific incidents were included in Madeline´s claim for medical negligence compensation which were unsubstantiated and had unnecessarily taken up time in the court hearing.

In a departure from the legal principal of “costs follow the event” the judge penalised Madeline by awarding her just 65% of the legal costs she would otherwise have been entitled to on the grounds that (in the judge´s opinion) only 20% of the evidence presented in court related to the act of negligence for which Madeline was ultimately compensated

Ms Justice Mary Irvine said “I am satisfied that regardless of the fact that the plaintiff only succeeded on the last of what I consider to have been four separate legs of her claim that she must nonetheless be deemed to be the overall winner of proceedings in which the defendants denied any liability and in the course of which she duly established a right to compensation she would not otherwise have been able to recover”.

The judge then added “Just because a plaintiff has one good point they should not, to my mind, be permitted to litigate a myriad of others and have the court make an order requiring the successful defendant on such issues to pay for that luxury. There must be some sanction in terms of costs should this occur”.

However, the judge also considered that it would be harsh to limit Madeline´s award of legal costs to 20%, as the practice of reducing the recovery of legal costs in a High Court case not customary. Therefore, she reduced Madeline´s award of legal costs to 65% to act as a warning to future plaintiff´s attaching unsubstantiated claims to a genuine case.

Patients are at Risk of Infection in Hospitals According to New Reports

Posted on: August 29th, 2013

Five reports recently released by the Health Information Quality Authority (HIQA) have found that patients are at risk of infections in hospitals because of poor hygiene by the staff.

In June and July, inspectors from the HIQA conducted unannounced inspections of several hospitals throughout Ireland, and the reports of their visits have just been made public. The reports reveal a serious lack of hygiene among the medical and nursing staff, which is being allowed by the management of the hospitals, and which present a high risk of infection in hospitals to patients, visitors and other members of staff.

The worst offender among the five hospitals was Waterford Regional Hospital – where inspectors found a general lack of cleanliness in the hospital environment and equipment used in the hospital. During the inspection, a patient with a suspected transmittable infection was treated in a bay in the main area of the Accident and Emergency Department, while isolation rooms were being used as a storeroom and an Ear, Nose and Throat consulting room.

Inspectors also found that medical and nursing staff used only five in twenty-three hand hygiene opportunities and that soap dispensers provided for staff at the hospital were either empty or clogged with soap residue. Further areas of concern included hazardous chemicals being stored on an open shelf in a utility room and corridors being cluttered with trolleys, items of medical equipment and waste collection bins.

Commenting on the report, the clinical director of Waterford Regional Hospital, Rob Landers admitted that he was “extremely disappointed” and said that the catalogue of bad hygiene and health risks was “unacceptable”. He added that hand hygiene training would be made for all workers in the future to reduce the risk of infection in hospitals.

Four more Hospitals fail National Standards

The four further hospitals that were in breach of the National Standards for the Prevention and Control of Healthcare Associated Infections and presented a risk of infection in hospitals when HIQA inspectors made unannounced visits were:-

Louth County Hospital

Inspectors at Louth County Hospital discovered two cases of patients with known transmissible infections placed in isolation rooms with the doors left open onto the general ward.

Our Lady´s Hospital, Navan

The Accident & Emergency Department at Our Lady´s Hospital was found to be generally unclean and a high risk of infection in hospitals was identified in the hospital´s female medical ward.

St Michael´s Hospital, Dun Laoghaire

At St Michael´s Hospital in Dun Laoghaire, inspectors discovered two unhygienic temperature probes – one was visibly unclean and the second had a sticky residue on its screen.

Portiuncila Hospital

At Portiuncila Hospital in Galway a high risk of infection in hospitals was attributable to problems with the physical environment, waste management and cleanliness of patient equipment.

The five hospitals that have been identified as presenting a risk of infection in hospitals will be required to develop a quality improvement plan within six weeks and publish it on their websites.

Report Finds Missed Diagnosis Claims are Responsible for Most GP Medical Negligence Cases

Posted on: August 22nd, 2013

A report commissioned by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI) has found that the most common reason for GP medical negligence cases is missed diagnosis claims.

The review of malpractice claims in primary care in Ireland was carried out at the Health Research Board Centre for Primary Care Research based at the RCSI in Dublin to establish which areas of primary care in Ireland should be highlighted when developing future educational strategies and risk management systems for healthcare practitioners.

The key findings of the review were:-

  • Compensation claims for a failure to diagnose or for a delay in diagnosing were the commonest reason for cases being brought against GPs for medical negligence in Ireland
  • The diagnoses most frequently cited in missed diagnosis claims for compensation were cancer and heart attacks for adults and meningitis for children
  • The annual prevalence of malpractice claims against GPs for missed diagnosis or delayed diagnosis appears to be on the increase

Further Findings of the RCSI Review

The review of GP medical negligence cases established that the second most common reason for medical negligence claims against a GP in Ireland was medication errors – although this area grouped together prescription errors made by family doctors and administration errors made in hospitals.

Other areas where lead researcher Dr Emma Wallace found there was area for improvement was in the accident and emergency department, where the number of delayed diagnoses concerning appendicitis, ectopic pregnancies and fractures were consistent with previous reviews.

Dr Wallace – who is herself a GP – also commented that although a missed or delayed diagnosis of meningitis accounted for only 1% of all GP medical negligence cases, it accounted for 30% of the cost of settling missed diagnosis claims for children.

Benefits for both Doctors and Patients

Dr Wallace hopes that the consequences of the report will be to improve the primary care received by patients and early detection of breast cancer, colon cancer, melanoma cancer and cancers of the lung and female genital tract.

The report acknowledges that doctors facing GP medical negligence cases have also been shown to experience high levels of psychological distress and consequently have practiced more defensively and referred patients onto specialists – releasing the doctor from the fear of litigation, but the delaying the diagnosis of a serious condition.

Family Claim for a Fatal Accident in Hospital after Coroner´s Verdict

Posted on: August 5th, 2013

The family of a woman, who drowned while taking a bath at the Frankston Hospital in Melbourne, are to make a claim for a fatal accident in hospital following the Coroner´s report into her death.

Amy Hauserman (26) was voluntarily admitted into the Frankston Hospital in March 2008 after doctors feared she was relapsing into schizophrenia and risked the repeat of previous problems she had experienced with anorexia.

Two days later, Amy was found dead – face down in a bath which she had been allowed to take unsupervised – which Coroner Peter White attributed to either falling into an unconscious state while taking the bath or slipping as she tried to get out.

Attributing Amy´s death to “hypoxic brain injury in a setting of immersion”, the Coroner said there was no indication that Amy had tried to take her own life and that, had a nurse been present in the bathroom, there was a high chance that Amy could have been rescued.

The Coroner also mentioned in his report that Amy had been allowed to take a bath without a risk assessment being undertaken and without seeking the advice of her consultant doctor. He said “I find that the absence of supervision was a primary feature leading to her death, in that it caused or contributed to an inability to successfully intervene and to give effect to her rescue.”

After the hearing, Amy Hauserman´s father confirmed that the family would be making a claim for a fatal accident in hospital against the Mornington Peninsula Health Service on the grounds that had the hospital “showed her the due and proper care she deserved, she would still be us now”.

The hospital were not available to comment on the Coroner´s findings, however a court date has already been set in May 2014 to hear the claim for a fatal accident in hospital.

This is an Information site only – if you feel you have a potential claim, you should discuss your situation with a solicitor registered with the Law Society of Ireland.