Roger Murray, joint Managing Partner at Callan Tansey solicitors – speaking at a conference on medical negligence with solicitors, medical professionals and patients in attendance in September – said that roughly 1,000 unnecessary deaths are caused every year in Ireland due to medical negligence.
The legal expert went on to add that up to 160,000 hospitals visitors suffer injuries due to human error. Mr Murray was speaking at the Pathways to Progress conference on medical negligence and stressed that there is “no compo culture” to be seen when it comes to Irish medical negligence compensation legal cases, saying that he believes that what we are seeing currently is just “the top of a very murky iceberg”.
From his experience in working on a number of high-profile medical error compensation cases, Mr Murray said that he believes that not all people suffering due to medical negligence report it while the HSE is made aware of 34,170 “clinical incidents” every year. Of these 575 resulted in compensation claims against the HSE, a rate of less than 1.7 per cent.
Mr Murray told those at the conference that the most often experienced cases are involving surgery (36 per cent) medicine (24 per cent), maternity (23 per cent) and gynaecology (7.5 per cent).
He also stressed that while injured parties and families do have empathy for medical workers who make errors what “they cannot abide is systemic and repeated errors”.
The legal expert called for thorough reviews when mistakes are experienced, saying that he had witnessed many inquests where families of those who had died learned that desktop reviews had been completed after a death, and the results were not presented to the appropriate staff members.
A settlement of compensation for the misdiagnosis of meningitis has been approved at the High Court in favour of a fifteen-year-old girl from County Cork.
The young girl was just three years of age when, on the morning of 10th July 2005, her concerned parents called the South Doc out-of-hours doctor´s service in Cork to expressed concerns about their daughter´s condition. As she was suffering from a rash on her stomach, a high temperature, drowsiness and vomiting, her parents were told to bring the girl into the medical centre.
Arriving at 5:00am, the girl was examined by Dr Leon Britz, who diagnosed tonsillitis and told the family to go back home. However, within a few hours, the young girl´s condition deteriorated and her parents brought her back to the medical centre at 9:30am when she was examined by another doctor who diagnosed meningitis.
The girl was taken to the Emergency Department of Cork University Hospital, where antibiotics were administered before she was transferred to Our Lady´s Children´s Hospital in Crumlin. Tragically, the girl had to have both legs amputated below the knee and subsequently underwent 132 operations to resolve other health issues that could have been avoided if her condition had been correctly diagnosed initially.
Through her mother, the girl claimed compensation for the misdiagnosis of meningitis against Dr Britz and South West Doctors on Call Ltd – alleging that she had suffered “profound consequences” as a result of the initial misdiagnosis. Had antibiotics been administered at an earlier stage, it was alleged, many of the consequences of her condition could have been avoided.
Liability was admitted by the defendants, and a settlement of compensation for the misdiagnosis of compensation amounting to €5.6 million was agreed between the parties. As the claim had been made on behalf of a legal minor, the settlement of compensation for the misdiagnosis of meningitis had to be approved by a judge to ensure it was in the girl´s best interests.
At the approval hearing at the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told the sequence of events on 10th July 2005 and of the “profound consequences” suffered by the girl. After hearing the girl was doing well at school and just about to sit her Junior Cert exams, Judge Cross approved the settlement of compensation for the misdiagnosis of meningitis – praising the girl´s parents for the care they had provided for their daughter.
The High Court has approved the final settlement for a compensation claim made for a failure to refer after a sharp increase in antibodies was noted.
When Isabelle Sheehan was born in November 2004 at the Bon Secours Maternity Hospital in Cork, she was found to be suffering from spastic quadriparetic cerebral palsy. However, one month before her delivery, Isabelle’s mother – Catherine – had a blood test that showed an “alarming rise” in antibodies. These antibodies posed a risk to the foetus, but her obstetrician – Dr David Corr – did not refer the expectant mother to a specialist.
Isabelle is now eleven years old, and despite her difficulties communicating, has been described as “bright and intelligent”. A specially-designed machine helps her walk, and she attends an all-Irish school near where she lives. However, she will be reliant on round-the-clock care for the rest of her life.
Dr Corr admitted liability for Isabelle’s injuries when Catherine made a claim for compensation against him for his failure to refer her. During a hearing to award an initial interim compensation settlement in October 2011, he told the court that he “very much regrets the outcome in relation to Isabelle´s birth”.
In 2013, when a second interim compensation settlement was approved, Catherine requested that Isabelle, rather than have to undergo the week-long assessments that accompanied each interim settlement, that she receive a lump sum instead.
The court granted this request, and the case was heard earlier this month by President of the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Peter Kelly for approval of the €9 million settlement. Judge Kelly described the settlement as fair and reasonable, and agreed that it was understandable why this method was preferable. Before closing the case, he paid tribute to Colin and Catherine Sheehan, and said that Isabelle’s progress would not have been as notable as it is if they did not express the same dedication to her.
A seven-figure compensation settlement of compensation has been awarded for an undiagnosed cerebral subarachnoid haemorrhage.
On 26th June 2006, Paula Dundon – aged forty-two from Brownstone in Co. Kildare – went to Naas General Hospital presenting with severe headaches, nausea and vomiting. She was then administered painkillers and administered to the hospital where a CT scan was performed on her brain.
However, doctors couldn’t identify what was causing Paula her pain. On the 19th June, a second scan was carried out which showed that Paula had a large bleed to the left side of her brain. Once this was identified, Paula was transferred to Beaumont Hospital.
Doctors at Beaumont Hospital diagnosed the bleed as an intra-cerebral subarachnoid haemorrhage. However, the delay in diagnosis meant that Paula suffered permanent brain damage and is now reliant on round-the-clock care.
Acting on his wife’s behalf, Michael Dundon sought legal counsel and proceeded to make a claim for medical negligence and undiagnosed brain injury against the Health Service Executives. In the claim, he alleged that the his wife’s injuries could have been avoided and was attributable to negligence. He also alleged that an adequate assessment of his wife would have mitigated the level of damage.
However, the HSE contested the claim that they failed to adequately assess Paula’s condition, though they admitted that the timeframe in which they acted was not appropriate.
Negotiations began between the parties, and a €2.7 million compensation settlement was agreed upon. However, as the claim was made on behalf of someone else, the case needed to be presented to a judge before it was approved. The hearing took place earlier this month in the High Court of Dublin before Mr Justice Kevin Cross. Judge Cross approved the settlement before giving his congratulations to Michael for the care he had given Paula over the past decade.
A group of seven former patients of a gynaecologist found negligent by the Medical Council have made claims for negligent procedures.
The gynaecologist in question, Dr Peter van Greene, performed the procedures at the Aut Even private hospital in Kilkenny between 2009 and 2011. They each filed before a recent hearing at the Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise Committee. The committee found Dr van Greene guilty of two counts of poor professional performance.
Helen Cruise, along with three other anonymous women, made the complaints against Dr van Greene. Helen had a hysterectomy at the private hospital, but had not previously given her informed consent to the procedure. Ever since, Helen has said she’s suffered with depression as a result of the poor standard of treatment she received at the facility.
Helen also testified at the hearing held by the Fitness to Practice Committee, telling the committee that the procedure – along with any potential risks – was only explained after she was given her anaesthetic. She also told of how she needed to be given six units of blood because of post-operative bleeding.
The committee also heard of how the currently unemployed gynaecologist recently filed for bankruptcy in the United Kingdom. His most recent place of employ was the Whitfield Clinic in Co. Waterford, where he was employed whilst an investigation into his conduct was being carried out.
Though Dr van Greene has filed for bankruptcy, this should not mean that his seven former patients will not be able to claim compensation. If they are awarded any compensation, the settlements will be paid out by the gynaecologist’s former medical indemnity insurance company.
A High Court judge has allowed a claim for steroid side effect compensation to proceed after denying the manufacturer of the steroid an application to dismiss.
Mr Justice George Birmingham denied Pfizer´s application to dismiss the claim for steroid side effect compensation after hearing how forty-three year old Lorna Savage from Cobh in County Cork had been prescribed Deltacortril by her GP in 1997 to treat vasculitis – a skin disorder in blood vessels are damaged and group together to form an unsightly and irritable rash.
The judge was told that after taking the steroid tablets for several years, Lorna developed Avascular Necrosis – a rare but well-chronicled side effect of Deltacortril – a condition which prevents blood from reaching the bones, which consequently disintegrate as the bone tissue dies. Judge Birmingham heard that, by 2001, Lorna had undergone surgery to have one hip and both knees replaced, was confined to a wheelchair and was taking morphine to manage the pain.
Lorna made a claim for steroid side effect compensation against the GP who originally prescribed the steroid – Dr. Michael Madigan – and her consultant doctor at Cork University Hospital – Dr. M Molloy – who continued to prescribe Deltacortril after Dr. Madigan´s death in 1999. Lorna alleged that her Dr. Madigan had not sufficiently investigated her skin condition and had negligently prescribed Deltacortril when he should have been aware of the potential side effects.
Lorna´s claim for steroid side effect compensation against Dr. Molloy alleged that he had continued to negligently prescribe Deltacortril after Dr. Madigan´s death and had failed to recognise the symptoms of Avascular Necrosis despite her deteriorating condition. A claim for compensation was also made against Pfizer on the grounds that the pharmaceutical company had failed to advise the continued use of Deltacortril could result in Avascular Necrosis and that Pfizer did not give any indication on their literature that drinking alcohol while taking the steroid tablets increased the risk.
The two living defendants and the estate of Dr Madigan denied liability, and Pfizer made an application to have Lorna´s claim for steroid side effect compensation thrown out on the grounds that there had been an “inexcusable delay” in bringing her case to court. After hearing arguments from both sides, Mr Justice George Birmingham determined that the delay in bringing the case to court was “excusable” as the delay had been attributable to Lorna having to undergo more surgery.
The judge said that the prolonged recovery period from her recent surgery had prevented Lorna from instructing her solicitors and this, he considered, was a valid reason for the delay. Judge Birmingham refused Pfizer´s application to throw out the case and ordered that Lorna´s claim for steroid side effect compensation be scheduled for a hearing in the High Court later this year.
A widower´s claim for an untimely death due to medical negligence has been resolved at the High Court after the HSE apologised for their error and a settlement of €165,000 was approved.
On 12th January 2006, Helen Malone (60) from Carlow died at St Luke´s General Hospital in Kilkenny of systemic sepsis and multiple organ failure due to a bowel perforation four days after she had undergone surgery. An inquest into her death concluded that, if the operation had been performed when Helen was first admitted to the hospital, she would have survived.
Helen´s consultant George Nessim was subsequently charged with four counts of professional misconduct relating to Helen´s death and found guilty by the Irish Medical Council in 2009. Despite the Council´s findings, the HSE denied liability for the standard of care Helen had received, and her widower – Patrick Maloney – made a compensation claim for an untimely death due to medical negligence against St. Luke´s General Hospital and the HSE.
The HSE failed to acknowledge that Helen´s untimely death had been attributable to medical negligence until shortly before a scheduled court hearing. A settlement of compensation amounting to €165,000 to account for Patrick´s mental anguish and that of his six adult children but, due to the nature of Helen´s untimely death, the settlement had to be approved at the High Court.
After five separate hearings were postponed, the circumstances of Helen´s wrongful death were related to Mr Justice Ryan. Judge Ryan and members of the Malone family heard an apology read to them by a representative of St Luke´s General Hospital in which the Hospital and the HSE apologised for the failings in treatment and care that were afforded to Helen.
The apology acknowledged that the treatment provided for Helen did not meet the appropriate standard of care, and that it resulted in a series of events “giving rise to her untimely death”. Judge Ryan noted that Patrick´s compensation claim for an untimely death due to medical negligence did not include aggravated damages and – commending the two parties for settling a “difficult, painful and tragic case” – he approved the settlement.
A judge at the High Court has approved a €62,500 settlement of compensation for a wrongful death due to the misdiagnosis of cancer.
The family of Sharon McEneaney – who died aged 31 in April 2009 from cancer of the abdomen – were at the High Court in Dublin this week to hear an apology read to them by a representative of Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, were Sharon first attended in October 2007 with an abdominal pain.
The court was told how Dr Etop Samson Akpan failed to conduct tests that could have identified a tumour and that it was not until former TD Dr Rory O´Hanlon intervened on Sharon´s behalf that a biopsy was taken in June 2008. By then, the cancer in Sharon´s abdomen had advanced significantly and she died ten months later.
The court also heard that in January 2012 Dr Akpan was found guilty of a poor professional performance by the Medical Council of Ireland´s Fitness to Practise Committee, and that a report prepared by the Health Service Executive (HSE) after an investigation into Sharon´s death recommended thirty-eight changes to the current procedures at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital to prevent further wrongful deaths due to a misdiagnosis of cancer.
The apology was read to the family by Margaret Swords – representing the Louth & Meath Hospital Group – who acknowledged that Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital had failed Sharon, and who informed the court that the hospital was making progress in implementing the HSE´s recommendations. The court heard that a settlement of compensation for a wrongful death due to the misdiagnosis of cancer had been offered amounting to €62,500.
Ms Justice Mary Irvine was told that Sharon´s mother – Jane – is to receive €27,100 of the settlement, and €10,000 would cover the expense of Sharon´s funeral and other costs related to her death. The remainder is to be divided between Sharon´s four sisters and brothers. According to the family´s barrister, the family are satisfied with the terms of the settlement and Ms Swords´ apology.
Before she closed the hearing, Judge Irvine said that the McEneaney family had shown “marvellous fortitude” in the face of such a tragic loss, and “courage and tenacity” during the inquest into Sharon´s wrongful death.
A woman in Philadelphia has won her claim for an adverse reaction to medication which caused her to go into cardiac arrest from which she suffered permanent brain damage.
In June 2010, Jacqueline DiTore attended the Outpatient´s Department of the Abington Surgical Centre in Pennsylvania for scheduled surgery on her nose. Prior to starting the surgery, her surgeon – Dr Warren Zager – asked a nurse to prepare an injection for a local anaesthetic and soak some cotton balls in a nasal decongestant (Afrin) so that they were ready if there was excessive bleeding during the procedure.
The nurse poured the nasal decongestant into a cup in order to soak the cotton balls before preparing the injection; but a second nurse mistook the contents of the cup as the anaesthetic, drew the Afrin into a syringe and handed it to the doctor. Unaware that the syringe had been filled with nasal decongestant, Dr Zager injected the Afrin into Jacqueline´s nose, and then left his patient to prepare for the surgery.
An anaesthetist present in the operating room saw that Jacqueline´s heart rate had decreased to 36 beats per minute and – unaware that Jacqueline had been injected with sufficient Afrin to cause a 100-fold narrowing of the blood vessels – administered an anticholinergic which brought Jacqueline´s heart rate up to 80 beats per minute.
Dr Zager returned to the operating room to begin the procedure, but Jacqueline still had feeling in her nose. The doctor asked for another injection of anaesthetic to be prepared, and it was then that the mix-up was realised. Unaware of the effect that the Afrin had on Jacqueline´s heart rate, Dr Zager chose to continue with the surgery and injected more anaesthetic into Jacqueline´s nose.
Following the second injection, Jacqueline´s heart rate suddenly increased to 140 beats per minute and her blood pressure registered 260/150. Dr Zager administered Labetalol (a drug used to lower high blood pressure) and Jacqueline´s blood pressure fell so low so quickly that she went into cardiac arrest. Jacqueline was rushed to nearby Abington Memorial Hospital where she was resuscitated.
Soon after her recovery from the cardiac arrest, it became apparent that Jacqueline´s adverse reaction to medication had caused brain damage which left her with impaired cognitive abilities, short-term memory loss and difficulty with her speech. Doctors told Jacqueline that her brain injuries were likely to deteriorate as she gets older and, after seeking legal advice, she made a compensation claim for an adverse reaction to medication against the Abington Surgical Centre and Dr Zager.
Both defendants denied that they were liable for the adverse reaction that caused Jacqueline to go into cardiac arrest but at the Montgomery County Court in Philadelphia before Judge Thomas M. Del Ricci, a jury delivered a verdict in Jacqueline´s favour and awarded her $5.1 million in settlement of her claim for an adverse reaction to medication. The jury found Dr Zager to be 38.5 percent negligent for the adverse reaction and the Abington Surgical Centre 61.5 percent negligent for the circumstances which caused it.
The High Court has approved an interim settlement of compensation for a failure to refer in a case involving an eight-year-old girl from Mallow in County Cork.
In November 2004, Isabelle Sheehan was born at the Bon Secours Maternity Hospital in County Cork, suffering from quadriplegic cerebral palsy after a paediatric consultant had failed to refer her mother to an expert in foetal medicine when the results of a blood test showed that Isabelle´s mother had a dangerously high level of antibodies.
An investigation into Catherine Sheehan´s pregnancy after Isabelle´s birth revealed that the antibodies in Catherine´s blood had been in conflict with those of her husband – Colm Sheehan – and that had Catherine had been referred to an expert by her paediatric consultant – Dr David Corr – Isabelle´s condition of quadriplegic cerebral palsy could have been avoided.
Isabelle made a claim for injury compensation for the failure to refer through her mother against Dr Corr – who admitted that he had made a mistake in the management of Catherine Sheehan´s pregnancy, and accepted liability for Isabelle´s injuries.
Two years ago – in October 2011 – Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill approved an interim settlement of €1.9 million compensation and adjourned Isabelle´s case to allow for legislation to be passed that would enable Isabelle to receive a structured payment settlement.
However, legislation has not yet been passed to facilitate such an arrangement, and the family were back in the High Court – this time in front of Mr Justice Kevin Cross – to have a further settlement of compensation for the failure to refer approved.
After hearing the circumstances of Isabelle´s birth and the injuries she had sustained as a result of Dr Corr´s negligence, Mr Justice Kevin Cross approved a second interim payment of €635,000, wished Isabelle good luck for the future and adjourned her case for a further two years.