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.
The HSE has finally admitted liability for a birth injury case in which a series of errors around a baby boy’s birth left him with a debilitating disability, after nearly a decade of denying fault.
The boy was born by emergency Caesarean Section at Kerry General Hospital on May 25th 2006. The hospital staff in charge of his birth committed a series of grave errors surrounding his birth. The baby boy´s delivery being delayed by two hours, depriving him of oxygen in the womb. Furthermore, despite an abnormal heart-rate pattern being observed, the consultant obstetrician was not informed. The possibility of foetal hypoxia was not considered by hospital staff, and no action was taken on a CTG trace indicating foetal distress.
Due to oxygen deprivation, the baby suffered devastating brain damage. He was diagnosed with mixed dyskinetic spastic cerebral palsy, a devastating disability. The boy (now ten years of age) requires 24-hour support from his parents, He us unable to speak or walk, and must always use a wheelchair. To exacerbate the family’s suffering, the HSE failed to admit liability for nine years. The boy´s family were forced to care for him relying entirely on their own resources, without the support they were entitled to from the state.
The HSE finally liability early last year after the family’s legal team threatened them with aggravated damages. After initial negotiation, an interim settlement of €2.7 million compensation for brain damage at birth was rushed through the courts. Recently, the family was back in court for the approval of a final lump sum settlement of compensation for brain damage at birth amounting. The two parties had agreed that €15 million was a sufficient sum. The judge presiding over the case described this as an amount that was described as “commercial common and legal sense”. 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.
Approving the settlement, Judge Kelly paid tribute to the boy´s parents for the care of their son, and added while no money would compensate the boy and his family, but 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.
The HSE has paid compensation to a boy who suffers from Erb’s palsy as a result of medical negligence surrounding his birth.
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.
A cerebral palsy claim against the HSE has been heard in the High Court for the approval of a compensation settlement without an admission of liability.
On 5th October 2010, a woman from Midleton in County Cork gave birth to twin boys at Cork University Maternity Hospital. One of the boys was delivered in good health during the emergency Caesarean Section procedure, but the second was born in a poor state due to being starved of oxygen in the womb. He was diagnosed shortly after with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy.
On the second twin´s behalf, his mother made a cerebral palsy claim against the HSE, claiming that there had been a failure to diagnose a vasa praevia condition during her pregnancy after scans conducted in June and September had revealed a low-lying placenta. The woman claimed that the Cork University Maternity Hospital had failed to exercise reasonable care in the antenatal stage of the pregnancy.
The Cork University Maternity Hospital and HSE contested the claim on the grounds it was not normal practice to conduct further investigations or take precautions against the risk of a vasa praevia condition causing complications. However, after a period of negotiation, an interim settlement of cerebral palsy compensation amounting to €1.98 million was agreed without an admission of liability.
As the cerebral palsy claim against the HSE had been made on behalf of a child, the interim settlement had to be approved by a court to ensure it was in the boy´s best interests. The approval hearing took place at the High Court, where the circumstances leading up to the boy´s delivery were explained, along with the reasons why it was believed that medical staff the hospital had acted negligently.
The High Court also heard how, in 2014, the boy had won a National Children of Courage Award, and that last year enough funds had been raised by family and friends to fly the family to Missouri so that the boy could undergo Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy surgery. As a result of the surgery, the boy has been able to learn to walk, although he still has to often rely on a walker or a wheelchair for his mobility.
The High Court approved the interim settlement of the cerebral palsy claim against the HSE after hearing that the funds will be used to pay for physiotherapy, speech, language and occupational therapy. The case was then adjourned for five years so that reports can be compiled into the boy´s future needs. When the family returns to the High Court in five years, it is hoped that a system of periodic payments will be in place so that his future wellbeing is guaranteed.
A claim for medical negligence compensation, made after a man was deprived of oxygen during a surgery on his spine, has been settled in court for €7.1 million.
The claim was made on behalf of a former barrister, aged forty-six, who visited the Sports Surgery Clinic in North Dublin concerning pain in his back. In 2014, he elected to have surgery on his cervical spine due to the pain. However, though the back pain was relieved, during the surgery the patient was deprived of oxygen and as a result sustained severe brain damage.
Since the surgery, the ex-barrister has been reliant on twenty-four-hour care as the mismanaged anaesthetic left him with a hypoxic brain injury. The patient can smile at his children and has certain reactions around his family, but cannot otherwise communicate. Though he is currently in a resident care home, his family hope that he will be able to return home to them in Clonee, Co. Meath, in the future.
Acting on her husband’s behalf, the patient’s wife made a claim for medical negligence compensation against Deirdre Lohan, the anaesthetist on the day of the surgery. However, the medical practitioner did not concede liability until October 2016, at which point a settlement of €7.1 million was negotiated between the families. However, before the settlement could be awarded it first had to be approved by a High Court judge, as it was made on another’s behalf.
The approval hearing was held earlier this month, where Mr Justice Kevin Cross oversaw proceedings. The judge was informed of that, to date, the victim’s care costs were being funded by a trust fund established by his friends and former colleagues. He also heard of the wife’s distress, and her eagerness to accept the settlement to finish with proceedings. The judge proceeded to approve the €7.1 million settlement for surgical negligence, offering his own sympathies towards the family after the “terrible tragedy” they had endured.
A man, who sustained injuries to his back after he fell from a trolley whilst sleeping in hospital, has settled his claim for medical negligence compensation.
The patient in question, Anthony Whelan, attended the Adelaide and Meath Hospital in September 2015 complaining of debilitating post-operative pain. The doctors admitted Anthony – a sixty-four year-old caretaker from nearby Tallaght – overnight and scheduled an emergency operation for the next morning.
Though Anthony was initially taken to an overnight ward, there was no available bed. As such, he was moved out not a corridor and placed near a nursing station, with screens around him to that he could rest.
However, as he was sleeping, Anthony fell from the trolley. He hit his back against the supports of the screens before landing on the ground, causing him a lot of pain. X-rays didn’t indicate that there was any damage to his chest, lungs or spine, though he was still administered painkillers and moved to a private room.
The second operation was carried out as planned the next morning. After his recovery, Anthony sought legal counsel and proceeded to make a claim for medical negligence compensation against the Tallaght hospital. In the claim, he alleged that his stay at the hospital was not adequately managed and that he suffered a substandard level of care.
The Adelaide and Meath Hospital acknowledged that Anthony’s accident had happened, though disputed the extent to which he said he was injured. As a result, the claim proceeded to the Circuit Civil Court for an assessment of damages.
There, Mr Justice Raymond Groarke oversaw proceedings. He was informed that the two parties had come to an agreement concerning the settlement of compensation and the payments of costs. The case is now within the jurisdiction of the District Court.
The High Court of Dublin have approved a seven-figure settlement of compensation for a young child that sustained serious injuries because there was a “lack of competent staff” at a hospital.
In August 2012, Eoghan Dunne was brought to the Portiuncula Hospital, Ballinasloe, aged just eleven months. Eoghan was experiencing severe respiratory distress and had a very high heart rate. Just a few hours later, his condition became so severe that he was transferred to a special unit in Temple Street Children’s Hospital in Dublin.
There, Eoghan suffered from a heart attack that was the result of septic shock. This lead to a deprivation of oxygen to Eoghan’s brain, resulting in brain damage that has left Eoghan with a host of life-changing disabilities. Eoghan is now epileptic, visually impaired and unable to speak or walk. He had to stay in hospital for six months after the heart attack and now he will be reliant on twenty-four hour care for the rest of his life.
An investigation concerning Eoghan’s injuries concluded that there many many factors that contributed to his injuries, all relating to a substandard level of care at the Portiuncula Hospital. The final report claims that the hospital was not adequately equipped for severe cases such as Eoghan’s. It also noted that they directly contradicted HSE policy for sepsis by failing to administer antibiotics. It also alleges that “a lack of competent staff” was to blame for the delayed transfer to Temple Street.
Teresa and Ronan Dunne, Eoghan’s parents, decided to seek legal counsel and proceeded to make a claim for medical negligence compensation against the Portiuncula Hospital and the HSE. They alleged that the injuries sustained by their son would not have been as severe should staff at the hospital acted appropriately. The HSE maintained that there was no negligence, denying to concede liability for Eoghan’s current condition.
As such, the case was due to proceed to a full court hearing. Yet, shortly before this was to commence, the HSE acknowledged their culpability and made the offer of €2.4 million as an interim settlement of compensation. This was accepted by the family, though needed to be approved by a judge in the High Court before it could be awarded as the claim was for a minor.
Mr Justice Kevin Cross, presided over the approval hearing and asserted his belief that the settlement was fair and added his anger that liability was not admitted sooner, as Eoghan could have then received therapy during a crucial period of development. The case has now been adjourned for a further assessment of damages.
A judge in Dublin’s High Court has increased the value of a compensation settlement that was previously decided by a tribunal after hearing testimony from a woman who developed encephalopathy during an appeal.
The woman, who remains anonymous, was representative of thousands of women who, in 1977, were given an anti-D immunoglobulin blood transfusion that had been infected with Hepatitis C. The case was initially settled in 1988, when the woman in question was given €298,000 by the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal, though she returned to the tribunal earlier this year in the hope of gaining more compensation to account for the fact that she developed “life destroying” cirrhosis of the liver and brain damage.
The Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal increased the award made to the anonymous woman by €180,000. However, the previous case had been settled for €250,000 when a woman have suffered similar injuries and as such the plaintiff appealed the decision. The case then went to the High Court, where it was opposed by the Minister for Health, emphasising any difference between the two cases, claiming that the woman in question had received treatment for Hepatitis C before the diagnosis of her condition.
However, Mr Justice Bernard Barton was told at the High Court of the woman’s “decompensated cirrhosis”, and how it was caused by ribavirin therapy she had undergone in 2013 to treat the Hepatitis C virus. Tests had shown that her liver had seriously deteriorated in condition.
Evidence was also given of the woman’s encephalopathy, which developed as a result of her treatment. Now, the woman suffers from unclear speech and absent-mindedness. The condition can be treated, though it requires ongoing care, and has caused the woman severe mental anguish.
Judge Barton said that the High Court had adequate jurisdiction to compensate the woman for the trauma she sustained after her treatment two years ago, claiming that it was “only fair and reasonable” that the award made by the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal was increased to €250,000 to account for the fact the woman can no longer live a full life.
The family of a woman who died from medical misadventure after a routine operation have sought legal counsel to claim compensation for her death.
Susan McGee, a fifty-two year old mother of two, was admitted to the Hermitage Medical Clinic on the 13th July 2013 for an operation to treat a hernia. The surgery, which was described as routine, was initially determined to be successful and Susan was discharged to the care of her daughter three days later.
However, on the 17th July, Susan started to experience extreme abdominal pains and nausea. She was taken back to the Hermitage and readmitted such that she could be monitored. However, over the weekend of the 20th and 21st July, Susan continued to worsen and a CT scan revealed that there was a mass in her small intestine.
An emergency surgery was conducted to remove the obstruction, though Susan did not get better after the surgery. The next day, the 23rd July, Susan was transferred to Intensive Care at Beaumont Hospital. However, she tragically died the next day from multiple organ failure brought on by sepsis, which in turn was caused by a Clostridium difficile infection.
In 2015, an inquest into Susan’s death revealed that the medical staff at the hospital had made several errors in their patients care. Dublin City Coroner’s Court heard how the staff failed to note that there was a brown faecal fluid draining in Susan’s nasogastric tube. Three days before she died, Susan’s vital signs were not recorded for ten hours.
Additionally, over the weekend during which Susan was in hospital, there was just one resident medical officer working in the hospital, Dr Lachman Pahwani. He testified that, whilst he tried to devote as much of his time as he could to Susan due to her condition, he had eighty other patients to care for whilst he was on duty.
The inquest determined that that Susan died because of medical misadventure. After the inquest, Susan’s family consulted a solicitor and have made a claim against the Hermitage Medical Clinic for Susan’s death.
Errors by locum radiologists have prompted a review of more than 7,000 x-rays and scans that were originally assessed during 2013 in seven Irish hospitals.
The HSE-ordered review of the x-rays and scans was initiated following concerns being raised about three locum radiologists that worked throughout Ireland as agency staff in mid-2013. The locum radiologists have not been named, and are believed to have left the country after being reported to the Medical Council.
At least one patient of Bantry General Hospital is known to have been late diagnosed with cancer, and sixty-two patients have been recalled at Cavan Monaghan Hospital for further check-ups. Six patients have been recalled at Kerry Hospital, while reviews at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda and Connolly Hospital are still in progress.
No patient safety concerns have been identified as the result of reviews at Wexford General and Roscommon Hospitals, and while the HSE has issued a statement that “most” patients will not have suffered an adverse effect due to errors by locum radiologists, patients with concerns are advised to consult their GPs.
It was revealed during the review at Cavan Monaghan Hospital that the errors by locum radiologists were responsible for 2,980 x-rays and scans being reviewed, and that one of the locums employed at the hospital was not on the Medical Council´s specialist register – so he should not even have been assessing x-ray images and scans.
The HSE has been criticised for allowing the situation to develop where there are not sufficient full-time radiologists to service Irish hospitals. Consultant rates were cut by 30 percent in 2012 and, although the pay cut was largely reversed earlier this year, it has left a shortfall in the number of radiologists available.
Usually, errors by locum radiologists are minimal, because there is usually a colleague available to give a second opinion. However, with some hospitals experiencing a severe shortage of qualified staff, consulting a colleague is not always an option. If it were, the mistakes by locum radiologists currently being reviewed could have been avoided.