Child Compensated for Medical Negligence During Mother’s Pregnancy

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A six-year-old boy, who sustained severe injuries at birth due to a failure to diagnose his mother’s vasa praevia, has been awarded a €1.98 million interim settlement of compensation by the High Court of Dublin.

In October 2010, the young boy and his twin brother were delivered by emergency Caesarean Section at Cork’s University Maternity Hospital by an emergency Caesarean Section. Whilst the boy’s older brother was delivered healthy, the boy in question had suffered from foetal distress syndrome and was quite weak when he was born. Shortly afterward, he was then diagnosed with spastic diplegia cerebral palsy.

The twins’ mother, acting on behalf of her disabled son, made a claim for medical negligence compensation for the failure to diagnose vasa praaevia complications during her pregnancy. Vasa praevia is a condition in which the foetal blood vessels are near the internal uterine opening, putting them at risk of rupturing during labour. The mother, who has remained anonymous but is known to live in Midelton, Co. Cork, alleges that earlier scans showed one of the placentas lay quite low in the womb, a critical risk factor for vasa praevia.

However, neither the Health Service Executives (HSE) and Cork University Maternity Hospital – against whom the allegations were made – accepted culpability for the birth injury. They claimed that they did not conduct any further tests for vasa praevia as it was not standard practice in such circumstances. Even so, they agreed to pay a seven-figure interim settlement of compensation to the young boy for his injuries.

As the claim was made on behalf of a minor it had to be approved by a High Court judge before any settlement could be awarded. The approval hearing was held earlier this month in Dublin, where the judge was told about the circumstances of the pregnancy and birth and what could have been done to prevent the boy’s injuries.

The court was also informed of more recent developments, including some of the child’s successes. In 2014, he received a National Children of Courage Award. His friends and family had also raised funds for him to fly to the United States for selective dorsal rhizotomy surgery, which allowed him to walk for the first time. However, he still requires therapy for speech and language acquisition.

The interim settlement was approved by the High Court. The case was then adjourned for five years, after which an additional assessment will be conducted.