Hospital Negligence Claims

Family Initiate Claim for Wrongful Death

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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 Prompt Major X-Ray Review

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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.

Claim for Cerebral Palsy Compensation against Cavan General Hospital Heard in Court

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The hearing of a claim for cerebral palsy compensation against Cavan General Hospital resulted in a €2.1 million interim settlement of compensation being approved by a judge.

20th July 2007, Patrick Brannigan from Castleblayeny in County Monaghan was born by emergency Caesarean Section at Cavan General Hospital, after his mother – Niamh – had been given the synthetic drug Syntocinon to accelerate her labour.

The drug was given to Niamh despite an earlier CTG trace revealing that Patrick was in distress in the womb; and, rather than bring forward Patrick´s birth, the administration of Syntocinon had the effect of depriving him of oxygen.

Patrick (now seven years of age) was born with dyskinetic cerebral palsy and will never be able to lead an independent life due to his mismanaged birth. He has little means of communication, is confined to a wheelchair and is cared for full-time by his parents.

Patrick made a claim for cerebral palsy compensation against Cavan General Hospital through his mother, alleging that use of Syntocinon after a CTG trace had shown he was in distress was inappropriate and directly led to his dyskinetic cerebral palsy birth injuries.

Following an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Patrick´s birth, Cavan General Hospital admitted liability and issued an apology to Patrick and his family. A €2.1 million interim settlement of Patrick´s claim for cerebral palsy compensation against Cavan General Hospital was agreed, and the claim went to the High Court for approval of the settlement.

At the High Court earlier this week, details of Patrick´s birth were related to Mr Justice Kevin Cross. Judge Cross approved the settlement and adjourned the claim for cerebral palsy compensation against Cavan General Hospital so that an assessment of Patrick´s future needs can be conducted.

When the claim for cerebral palsy compensation against Cavan General Hospital returns to court, it is hoped that legislation is passed to allow for a structured payment settlement to be approved. If no such facility is in place by then, Patrick´s claim against Cavan General Hospital will be settled with a lump sum.

Compensation for the Failure to Treat Meningitis Approved in Court

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A settlement of compensation for the failure to treat meningitis has been approved at the High Court in favour of an eleven-year-old boy.

Matthew McGrath from Gorey in County Wexford was just seventeen months of age when he was admitted to Wexford General Hospital on 27th May 2004 after he had been uncharacteristically drowsy and vomiting fluids. Matthew was diagnosed with Haemophilus Influenza Type B – which is known to lead to meningitis and would normally be treated by antibiotics and fluids.

However, Matthew´s condition deteriorated overnight and he was considered by doctors to be in shock. Nonetheless Matthew underwent a lumbar puncture procedure to confirm suspected meningitis the following morning, despite accepted medical guidelines recommending against the procedure when a patient is in shock.

During the procedure Matthew´s spinal cord compressed, due to which he cannot move his arms or legs. Matthew spent the next two years of his life in hospital and was only allowed home when his parents campaigned for his discharge from hospital. Matthew´s parents are now his full-time carers, as he is permanently paralysed and can only breathe through a ventilator.

Through his mother – Cathy McGrath – Matthew claimed compensation for the failure to treat meningitis. In the claim it was alleged that if Matthew had been administered antibiotics and given fluids at the time of his admission into Wexford General Hospital, the lumbar puncture procedure would have been unnecessary and he would have avoided his devastating injuries.

After an investigation into the circumstances of Matthew´s admission into Wexford General Hospital, the HSE admitted liability and issued an apology to Matthew´s parents. An interim settlement of €3.7 million compensation for the failure to treat meningitis was agreed, but the settlement first had to be approved by a judge.

Consequently, at the High Court, the tale of Matthew´s devastating and unnecessary injuries was related to Mr Justice Matthew Cross. Judge Cross approved the interim settlement of compensation for the failure to treat meningitis and adjourned the case for five years. During this time reports into Matthew´s future needs can be carried out so that a final settlement can be agreed if legislation is not forthcoming to allow periodic payments of compensation.

Court Rules in Hydrocephalus Medical Negligence Claim

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The High Court has found in favour of a seven-year-old girl in a hydrocephalus medical negligence claim against the Health Service Executive.

Ava Kiernan developed the symptoms of hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”) when she was just a few months old. Hydrocephalus is a condition in which cerebral spinal fluid fails to drain from the brain and is often identified in young children by a rapid expansion of the head´s circumference or bulges appearing as “soft spots” around the skull.

According to Ava´s mother – Ruth Kiernan from Duleek in County Meath – a public health nurse failed to spot the symptoms of hydrocephalus in April 2008 despite Ruth raising concerns about her daughter´s condition. The nurse also failed to recall Ava for a further examination and mistakes were made in the measurement of Ava head in September of the same year.

As a result of the public health nurse´s failure to act, Ava developed mental and physical disabilities from which she will never recover. On Ava´s behalf, Ruth made a hydrocephalus medical negligence claim against the Health Service Executive (HSE), claiming that the nurse´s negligence was a contributory factor in her child´s lack of development.

The hydrocephalus medical negligence claim was contested by the HSE and the case was heard by Mr Justice Kevin Cross at the High Court. Judge Cross found the HSE liable for Ava´s injuries after three weeks of testimony, and said that if Ava had been recalled four weeks after the initial head circumference measurement, her condition would have likely been identified and Ava would have been referred to a specialist.

Had Ava been referred to a specialist, the judge continued, the hydrocephalus could have been treated by a shunt which would have prevented the brain damage from occurring. Judge Cross said that the public health nurse´s failure to act was “materially causative” to Ava´s present condition and he adjourned the hydrocephalus medical negligence claim in order that an assessment of Ava´s future needs could be conducted to determine an appropriate compensation settlement.

Medical Negligence Claim against Waterford Regional Hospital Heard in Court

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A judge has awarded a four-year-old boy a €2 million interim settlement after his medical negligence claim against Waterford Regional Hospital was heard in court.

Kevin Dunphy-English spent the first twenty-four days of his life in a incubator having been born at the Waterford Regional Hospital “neurologically compromised” on 9th July 2010. Kevin was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and now – four years of age – he can only walk short distances and will be reliant on a wheelchair as he gets older.

On Kevin´s behalf a medical negligence claim against Waterford Regional Hospital was made by his mother – Jane Dunphy from Mooncoin, County Kilkenny – claiming that Kevin´s delivery was avoidably delayed after it had been identified that his heart rate was decelerating.

According to court papers, a blood sample had been taken at 1:40am, and a deceleration of the heart rate was recorded at 2:30am. It was alleged that if another blood sample had been taken after the heart rate deceleration had been identified, medical staff would have made an earlier intervention and Kevin´s birth injuries would have been avoided.

An investigation into the circumstances of Kevin´s delivery confirmed that he would have not been starved of oxygen in the womb if his birth had been brought forward an hour. The HSE admitted liability and settled claims for nervous shock compensation made by both of Kevin´s parents.

The medical negligence claim against Waterford Regional Hospital proceeded to the High Court for the assessment of damages. During the hearing, Mr Justice Kevin Cross met with Kevin in his private chambers and learned that that Kevin is doing well at pre-school. Kevin´s parents hope that he will be accepted into a mainstream class when he is old enough.

In court Judge Cross described Kevin as “a lovely little lad”, and he commended Kevin´s parents for the efforts they had put into raising their son. The judge awarded Kevin €2 million compensation as an interim settlement of his medical negligence claim against Waterford Regional Hospital, and adjourned the case for five years in order that an assessment can be conducted for Kevin´s future needs.

Claim for Steroid Side Effect Compensation Allowed to Proceed

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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.

Claim for Untimely Death due to Medical Negligence Resolved after Court Hearing

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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.

Man Allowed to Pursue Compensation for Death of Wife Due to Hospital Negligence

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A bereaved widower has been allowed to continue with a claim for compensation for the death of his wife due to hospital negligence, after a High Court hearing.

Dolores Hewitt from Navan in County Meath had made a full recovery from breast cancer in 2001 and was on a monitoring regime at Our Lady´s Hospital in Navan when, in February 2007, an ultrasound revealed two cancerous lesions on Dolores´ liver.

No immediate action was taken by the hospital, and it was only following a chance meeting with her surgeon in July that year that Dolores underwent a second series of scans, which discovered further lesions on her liver. Dolores started a second course of treatment to fight the cancer, but died in June 2010.

Dolores´ widowed husband – Joseph Hewitt – made a claim for compensation for the death of his wife due to hospital negligence against the Health Service Executive (HSE), alleging that Our Lady´s Hospital had failed to act on Dolores´ scan results in February 2007. He also claimed that the hospital´s negligence had been responsible for the wrongful death of his wife.

The hospital and the HSE contested the claim for the death of a wife due to hospital negligence on the grounds that the alleged failure to act occurred in February 2007, and consequently a compensation claim made in 2012 was too late to be considered according to the two-year limitation period established by the Civil Liability Act of 1961.

The HSE applied for Joseph´s claim to be dismissed, but Joseph opposed the application and the case for dismissal was heard by Ms Justice Marie Baker at the High Court. After hearing arguments from both parties, Judge Baker said that the HSE was correct that the Statute of Limitations had expired to claim compensation for the alleged hospital negligence that occurred in 2007, but Joseph was within the allowed time period to claim compensation for the death of his wife due to medical negligence, as Dolores had died just nineteen months before the claim was initiated.

Court Approves Settlement of Compensation for Wrongful Death due to Misdiagnosis of Cancer

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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.