Mr Simon Harris, current Minister of Health, has announced a new National Patient Safety Office will be established, and among its first actions it will conduct a review of the medical negligence compensation claim procedures.
The announcement was made at a patient safety conference in Dublin. The Minister for Health announced the new National Patient Safety Office will report to the Department of Justice and Equality, and was established to “lead a program of significant patient safety measures”.
The new office, set up to help secure more rights for patients across Ireland, will establish a nationwide patient advocacy service, set up a new patient advisory council and also establish a patient safety surveillance system. However, it will also conduct a much-needed review of the processes required to claim for medical negligence compensation in Ireland.
The proposed Health Information and Patient Safety Bill will be greatly aided by this review. It outlines procedures that can be established to allow patients and their families to disclose adverse medical events.Such measures have been discussed before: the HSE had established guidelines for this open disclosure in 2013, though they are not actually being practiced in Irish healthcare facilities.
Many patient advocacy groups have been campaigning for such change for many years, and greatly welcome the news of the review. The patient representatives claim that without a statutory duty of candour, any new medical negligence claims are “unworkable”. The former Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, is heavily criticised by these groups for his failure to enforce open disclosure in 2015’s Civil Liberty (Amendment) Bill.
The new Health Information and Patient Safety Bill has many other goals to help bolster patient safety and privacy; it hopes to halt the unauthorised disclosure of health information, to establish the use of new medical technologies to safely exchange health data and to extend the Health Information and Quality Authority’s (HIQA) authority over private healthcare providers. However, the European Union is currently reviewing its data protection laws, and until that is completed these new measures will not be enacted.
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 two year-old boy has been awarded a €1.75 million settlement of compensation for medical negligence prior to his birth that left him disabled.
On the 19th August 2013, Catriona Enright was admitted to the Midwestern Regional Hospital. She was thirty-seven weeks pregnant when she was admitted, and after a medical examination, it was decided that her labour would be induced.
Catriona was then administered Syntocinon, a drug with well-documented side-effects. However, despite this, the medical staff failed to accurately monitor Catriona and, as a result, her baby suffered from hyper-stimulation in the womb.
The following morning, Charlie Enright was delivered “flat”, meaning that he was bot able to breathe unassisted. This was a result of the misinterpretation of a cardiocography trace by doctors, meaning that there was a delayed diagnosis of foetal distress. Charlie was shortly transferred to the Cork University Hospital, where he was diagnosed with an intra-cranial haemorrhage.
To treat this condition, Charlie underwent therapeutic hypothermia treatment, though he was still left with a permanent disability. Catriona, acting on behalf of her now two year-old son, sought legal counsel and made a claim for medical negligence compensation against the Health Service Executives. After an investigation into the circumstances of Charlie’s birth, the HSE admitted liability for Charlie’s injuries.
After this admittance, negotiations ensued between the parties. However, as the exact nature of Charlie’s future needs are unknown, an interim settlement of compensation worth €1.75 million was negotiated between the parties.
As the claim was made on behalf of a minor, the case proceeded to the High Court of Dublin such that the settlement could be approved by a judge. Mr Justice Anthony Barr proceeded to approve the settlement, and adjourned the case for two years such that an assessment of Charlie’s needs could be conducted.
A medical negligence claim, made by a woman who underwent an allegedly negligent mastectomy after a cancer misdiagnosis, has been heard in Dublin’s High Court.
Eileen Fennessy, a sixty-nine year-old retired schoolteacher from Co. Kilkenny, attended a Breast Check event as part of the National Breast Screening Programme on the 25th November 2011. However, she claims that mammogram taken at the screening contained warning signals of breast cancer which were not noted by medical staff, leading to a missed diagnosis.
A year after the first scan, Eileen visited her GP, who noted a large mass on one of her breasts. As such, Eileen was then referred to Waterford Regional Hospital, where an ultrasound and biopsy lead to the diagnosis of a grade 2 carcinoma.
Eileen was immediately started on a course of chemotherapy after the confirmation of her breast cancer. Regrettably, this did put her in remission and in April 2013 Eileen had a mastectomy. Upon her recovery from the procedure, Eileen sought legal advice and proceeded to make a claim for her missed diagnosis of breast cancer.
In her claim for medical negligence compensation – which was made against the Health Service Executives – Eileen alleged that the chemotherapy and following mastectomy would not have been needed had the medical staff correctly interpreted the warning signals from her mammogram in 2011.
The Health Service Executive, who run the “Breast Check” programme, denied that they were negligent in Eileen’s care. Earlier this week, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was informed at the High Court that the failure to diagnose Eileen after the initial screening put her at risk of her cancer becoming worse and metastasising.
The court was also informed that despite Eileen’s current remission, her prognosis “extremely serious and devastating”. The case will continue later this week.
A teenager suffering from cerebral palsy because of a delay in her delivery has been awarded a final, €5.56 million settlement of compensation.
Mary Malee was born on the 11th October 1999 at the Mayo General Hospital. However, as she had been suffering from foetal distress syndrome, she was delivered by an emergency Caesarean section. As no consultant was initially available, the emergency operation was delayed by eighty minutes – during which time Mary was deprived of oxygen in utero, causing brain damage. The teenager now lives with cerebral palsy and is wheelchair bound.
On behalf of her daughter, Maura Malee – from County Mayo – made a claim for birth injuries compensation against Mayo General Hospital. In the claim, Maura alleges that her daughter’s injuries are a direct result of the hospital’s negligence and inability to have a consultant available upon the diagnosis of an elevated foetal heart rate. This had meant that they could not deliver Mary quickly enough to prevent her injuries.
Two years ago, an interim settlement of compensation worth €1.5 million was approved by Ms Justice Mary Irvine. The case was then adjourned for two years such that a payment scheme could be established. However, no scheme was ever introduced and the family returned to the High Court last week such that a final settlement of €5.56 million could be awarded.
The hearing was presided over by Mr Justice Peter Kelly. An apology was read out by a representative of the hospital, which apologised to Mary for the “the many challenges that you have faced as a result of the treatment provided to your mother Maura at the time of your birth”. Judge Kelly then approved the compensation settlement, noting that Mary was “heroic” in the way she overcame the challenges in her life.
Once the settlement had been approved, Mary commented to a press reporter that “Cerebral palsy won’t kill me but I have to learn to live with it … it’s for life. This shouldn’t have happened to me and others like me. Justice has been done and I’m bringing closure to this, we can move on with our lives”.
The High Court has approved the final settlement for a compensation claim made for a failure to refer after a sharp increase in antibodies was noted.
When Isabelle Sheehan was born in November 2004 at the Bon Secours Maternity Hospital in Cork, she was found to be suffering from spastic quadriparetic cerebral palsy. However, one month before her delivery, Isabelle’s mother – Catherine – had a blood test that showed an “alarming rise” in antibodies. These antibodies posed a risk to the foetus, but her obstetrician – Dr David Corr – did not refer the expectant mother to a specialist.
Isabelle is now eleven years old, and despite her difficulties communicating, has been described as “bright and intelligent”. A specially-designed machine helps her walk, and she attends an all-Irish school near where she lives. However, she will be reliant on round-the-clock care for the rest of her life.
Dr Corr admitted liability for Isabelle’s injuries when Catherine made a claim for compensation against him for his failure to refer her. During a hearing to award an initial interim compensation settlement in October 2011, he told the court that he “very much regrets the outcome in relation to Isabelle´s birth”.
In 2013, when a second interim compensation settlement was approved, Catherine requested that Isabelle, rather than have to undergo the week-long assessments that accompanied each interim settlement, that she receive a lump sum instead.
The court granted this request, and the case was heard earlier this month by President of the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Peter Kelly for approval of the €9 million settlement. Judge Kelly described the settlement as fair and reasonable, and agreed that it was understandable why this method was preferable. Before closing the case, he paid tribute to Colin and Catherine Sheehan, and said that Isabelle’s progress would not have been as notable as it is if they did not express the same dedication to her.
A seven-figure compensation settlement of compensation has been awarded for an undiagnosed cerebral subarachnoid haemorrhage.
On 26th June 2006, Paula Dundon – aged forty-two from Brownstone in Co. Kildare – went to Naas General Hospital presenting with severe headaches, nausea and vomiting. She was then administered painkillers and administered to the hospital where a CT scan was performed on her brain.
However, doctors couldn’t identify what was causing Paula her pain. On the 19th June, a second scan was carried out which showed that Paula had a large bleed to the left side of her brain. Once this was identified, Paula was transferred to Beaumont Hospital.
Doctors at Beaumont Hospital diagnosed the bleed as an intra-cerebral subarachnoid haemorrhage. However, the delay in diagnosis meant that Paula suffered permanent brain damage and is now reliant on round-the-clock care.
Acting on his wife’s behalf, Michael Dundon sought legal counsel and proceeded to make a claim for medical negligence and undiagnosed brain injury against the Health Service Executives. In the claim, he alleged that the his wife’s injuries could have been avoided and was attributable to negligence. He also alleged that an adequate assessment of his wife would have mitigated the level of damage.
However, the HSE contested the claim that they failed to adequately assess Paula’s condition, though they admitted that the timeframe in which they acted was not appropriate.
Negotiations began between the parties, and a €2.7 million compensation settlement was agreed upon. However, as the claim was made on behalf of someone else, the case needed to be presented to a judge before it was approved. The hearing took place earlier this month in the High Court of Dublin before Mr Justice Kevin Cross. Judge Cross approved the settlement before giving his congratulations to Michael for the care he had given Paula over the past decade.
The High Court in Dublin has awarded a man an interim settlement of compensation who was left in a coma after medical staff failed to diagnose his organ failure in 2011.
When Robert Bolton, aged seventy-one, he underwent an operation to treat his oesophagus that was initially declared successful in St James Hospital, Dublin. However, the next morning, Robert suffered a heart attack because of respiratory failure.
After Robert was transferred to intensive care his condition continued to deteriorate, and as Robert was suffering from sepsis, he sustained a hypoxia ischaemic brain injury. This left him in a comatose state since 2011, interspersed with brief moments of minimal consciousness.
Angela, Robert’s wife, consulted a solicitor concerning the standard of care Robert received at the hospital after his operation and during his period in intensive care. After this, she proceeded to make a claim for compensation for the misdiagnosis of organ failure for her husband. She claimed that St James Hospital did not diagnose her husband’s sepsis or manage to meet the accepted criteria for systemic inflammatory response.
The hospital contested the claim for Robert’s condition, though they did partially admit liability for the substandard level of care Robert received at the hospital.
Negotiations lead to an interim settlement of compensation of €550,000, aiming to pay for the round-the-clock specialist care required by Robert for two years.
However, as Angela was making a claim for compensation on behalf of her husband, the settlement needed to be approved by the High Court. Mr Justice Kevin Cross oversaw proceedings and heard evidence of Robert’s heart attack, alleged failings by the hospital and the impact of those alleged failings.
Angela informed the judge that, though no amount of money would compensate for what happened to her husband, the money would ensure Robert was properly cared for. Judge Cross approved the settlement, adding that the figure was evidently the result of hard bargaining. He wished Angela and her family the best.
A judge awarded the sum to a five-year-old girl who was injured whilst wearing infant clothing made by the designer label Ralph Lauren.
To celebrate her birth, Amelia Duhy – born April 2010 – was bought a Ralph Lauren outfit from Brown Thomas, Dublin. Ten weeks later, Amelia and her parents – Robert and Julie Duhy of Drogheda, Co. Louth – went on holiday, bringing with them the outfit that consisted of a dress and pants combination.
Whilst on holiday, as she was preparing her young daughter for bed, Julie noticed red welts on Amelia’s legs. Upon returning home, she brought Amelia to the GP, who informed her that it wasn’t an allergic reaction and proceeded to refer her to a consultant plastic and reconstructive surgeon. The marks were identified as “secondary to a tight constriction band”.
Upon this identification, the outfit was sent to an expect in the field of elastic fabrics, who determined that the elastics used by the designer were twice the strength generally recommended for adults – let alone newborns. Julie proceeded to seek legal counsel, subsequently making a claim against Ralph Lauren Ireland Ltd.
Legal representatives of the designer label entered a full legal defence agains the claim, though they also offered a settlement of €17,500 for the injuries caused by the clothing company. The judge overseeing the court case, Mr Justice Raymond Groarke, heard how Amelia’s mother had to massage BioOil into her daughter’s thighs for two and a half years until the marks faded.
The judge was told that the clothes had been manufactured in China and that the label with Ralph Lauren New York had been stitched in afterwards. The strong elastic never broke Amelia’s skin, and as such, the judge decided to approve the settlement and closed the hearing.
An editorial published by the an Irish newspaper has made a case for the lack of enforcement of the open disclosure policy for the Health Service Executive.
The open disclosure policy, which sets guidelines for when the HSE should inform families when there are issues with the treatment and healthcare provided to their loved ones, was officially enacted in November 2013. However, the aforementioned open editorial – published by the Irish Examiner – claimed that the policy was beneficial to those involved, yet is still not being utilised in hospitals.
Catherine Shanahan – who wrote the open editorial – made use of seven key medical negligence cases that were in the media over the past twelve months. Shanahan claims that these cases are demonstrative of how the Health Service Executive is not admitting liability and as such, if they want to learn be compensated for their difficulties, patients and their families are forced to take the case to court, which is both costly and emotionally exhausting.
Gill Russell’s case, well known because of the battle with the States Claim Agency, was one case used by Shanahan to illustrate her point. Born in 2006 after “prolonged and totally chaotic” delivery which left her deprived of oxygen in utero, Gill now suffers from cerebral palsy. The HSE only issued an apology in 2012, which was also when an interim settlement of compensation was awarded.
However, no system of payments was ever enacted and in 2014, the Russell family were back in the High Court. They awarded a €13.5 million lump settlement – the largest ever awarded by the state for cerebral palsy. However, unsatisfied, the State Claims Agency then made an attempt to appeal the settlement. The appeal was initially rejected, which caused the agency to take it to the Supreme Court – delaying yet again the award of the funds to the family.
Skye Worthington’s and Katie Manton’s cases were also mentioned in the piece. Both suffered similar circumstances to Gill Russell, and both waited for years to receive an apology from the Health Service Executive for their mismanaged births. However, when an apology did come, Katie’s father said it was “too little too late”
Shanahan’s editorial makes a clear and compelling case for the claim that the policy is not being applied in Irish hospitals, and that the money put towards an information campaign concerning the policy was a waste of government funds.