The High Court has been told that a girl with cerebral palsy may not have been inflicted with any brain injury had she been delivered ten minutes earlier.
Seven-year-old Faye Walsh, taking the birth injury compensation action against the Health Service Executive and two consultant obstetricians through her mother Martine, alleges that medical negligence and a breach of agreement in relation to the management and circumstances of her birth occurred at University Hospital Galway on August 15 2011. The defendants deny these claims.
Throughout her pregnancy with Faye, Martine Walsh was a private patient of Dr Una Conway, a consultant obstetrician. Dr Conway and Dr Declan Egan, the second defendant obstetrician, operate their own private medical practices at Brooklawn Practice, Brooklawn House, Galway West Business Park, while also being employed as consultants in the Galway hospital.
Mrs Walsh decided to use a private obstetrician as she had one previous birth by caesarean section and suffered from serious abdominal injuries when she was involved in a car accident in 2008.
The main legal argument, so far, in the case concerns the information that Mrs Walsh was given in relation to the dangers of a natural delivery for her. The defendants allege that the options and dangers associated were outlined and argue that Mrs Walsh wanted, and agreed, to a natural delivery.
The HSE denies the claims that birth was unreasonably delayed and stated that delivery of the baby via vacuum assisted delivery, using a plastic or metal cup attached to the baby’s head, was also completely reasonable.
In her birth injury compensation case Mrs Walsh said that she was aware that Dr Conway was on annual leave in August 2011 and would not be present at the delivery. However, she claims that she had been advised by Dr Conway that Dr Egan would be there and would be up to date with with her medical history.
Dr Conway and Dr Egan do not agree that Mrs Walsh was told Dr Egan would be present for the delivery. They claim that Mrs Walsh was supplied with an information sheet stating her delivery would be supervised by a covering consultant obstetrician on call for the hospital should Dr Conway be unavailable.
Mrs Walsh told the court that neither defendant obstetrician was called to the hospital when, or after, Ms Walsh began labour about 11pm on Sunday August 14 2011. This was despite her requests from this by her, and her husband, for one of them to be called. The court was told that the on call hospital obstetrician was called to the hospital from his home around 4.30am on the morning of August 15 for the delivery.
The obstetric registrar was also called and used a Kiwi cup on the baby’s head and that the delivery was completed by the on-call obstetrician at 4.55am that morning. Faye was delivered in poor health and had to be resuscitated straight away. The child suffers from spastic quadriplegia, is non verbal, a full-time wheelchair user and will need round the clock care for the rest of her life.
The case is expected to last a number of weeks.