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.