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.