Medical Negligence News

Editorial Claims HSE Open Disclosure Policy is not Enforced

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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.

 

Couple Awarded Five-Figure Settlement of Compensation for Wrongful Death of Baby

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The High Court of Dublin has approved a five-figure settlement of compensation for a couple whose newborn son died because of errors in his delivery.

On the 20th November 2012, Fiona Watters was admitted to the Cavan General Hospital for the imminent arrival of her fist baby. By the morning of the 22nd November, her waters broke. She was then administer Prostaglandin to hasten the delivery of her baby.

The doses of Prostaglandin were gradually increased over the course of the day, though attempts at a natural birth that evening failed. The attending midwife sought advice from Dr Salah Aziz, a consultant obstetrician, and informed him that there were indications of foetal distress and that the baby had not yet crowned.

When Dr Aziz arrived at Fiona’s ward he learned that the only out-of-hours operating theatre was occupied. As such, he attempted both a vacuum and forceps delivery, though both failed. Eventually the operating theatre was made available, but by the time the required Caesarean Section was carried out Jamie, Fiona’s son, was very poorly.

Jamie was then transferred to the special care unit at Dublin’s Rotunda Hospital, though he died just two days later. Initial investigations into Jamie’s death were put to an end when Dr Aziz pointed out that investigators appointed by the HSE had failed to follow protocol.

However, despite this setback, Fiona and her partner, Francis Flynn, were still able to pursue a claim for wrongful death as they had received an advanced copy of the inquest’s report.

The HSE disputed liability for Jamie’s condition for nearly twelve months after the claim was made. Eventually, a second investigation to be carried out by an independent body was commissioned as two more babies had died in the same hospital.

At the end of 2014, Jamie’s cause of death was determined to be medical misadventure. In the coroner’s report, it was outlined how the administration of high doses of Prostaglandin, Dr Aziz’s failure to report Jamie’s imminent arrival to the registrar and the lack of a second out-of-hours theatre were all contributory factors to Jamie’s death.

The State Claims Agency then entered negotiations with Fiona and Francis concerning a compensation settlement. Eventually, a settlement of €70,000 was agreed between the parties, which was approved by Mr Justice Richard Humphreys in the High Court earlier this month. Judge Humphreys added that €5,000 of this settlement should be paid into court funds such that Fiona and Francis’ daughter can be compensated in the future.

Value of Compensation Settlement for Hepatitis C Increased after Appeal

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A judge in Dublin’s High Court has increased the value of a compensation settlement that was previously decided by a tribunal after hearing testimony from a woman who developed encephalopathy during an appeal.

The woman, who remains anonymous, was representative of thousands of women who, in 1977, were given an anti-D immunoglobulin blood transfusion that had been infected with Hepatitis C. The case was initially settled in 1988, when the woman in question was given €298,000 by the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal, though she returned to the tribunal earlier this year in the hope of gaining more compensation to account for the fact that she developed “life destroying” cirrhosis of the liver and brain damage.

The Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal increased the award made to the anonymous woman by €180,000. However, the previous case had been settled for €250,000 when a woman have suffered similar injuries and as such the plaintiff appealed the decision. The case then went to the High Court, where it was opposed by the Minister for Health, emphasising any difference between the two cases, claiming that the woman in question had received treatment for Hepatitis C before the diagnosis of her condition.

However, Mr Justice Bernard Barton was told at the High Court of the woman’s “decompensated cirrhosis”, and how it was caused by ribavirin therapy she had undergone in 2013 to treat the Hepatitis C virus. Tests had shown that her liver had seriously deteriorated in condition.

Evidence was also given of the woman’s encephalopathy, which developed as a result of her treatment. Now, the woman suffers from unclear speech and absent-mindedness. The condition can be treated, though it requires ongoing care, and has caused the woman severe mental anguish.

Judge Barton said that the High Court had adequate jurisdiction to compensate the woman for the trauma she sustained after her treatment two years ago, claiming that it was “only fair and reasonable” that the award made by the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal was increased to €250,000 to account for the fact the woman can no longer live a full life.

 

Seven Patients Make Claim for Negligent Hysterectomies

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A group of seven former patients of a gynaecologist found negligent by the Medical Council have made claims for negligent procedures. 

The gynaecologist in question, Dr Peter van Greene, performed the procedures at the Aut Even private hospital in Kilkenny between 2009 and 2011. They each filed before a recent hearing at the Medical Council’s Fitness to Practise Committee. The committee found Dr van Greene guilty of two counts of poor professional performance.
Helen Cruise, along with three other anonymous women, made the complaints against Dr van Greene. Helen had a hysterectomy at the private hospital, but had not previously given her informed consent to the procedure. Ever since, Helen has said she’s suffered with depression as a result of the poor standard of treatment she received at the facility.
Helen also testified at the hearing held by the Fitness to Practice Committee, telling the committee that the procedure – along with any potential risks – was only explained after she was given her anaesthetic. She also told of how she needed to be given six units of blood because of post-operative bleeding.
The committee also heard of how the currently unemployed gynaecologist recently filed for bankruptcy in the United Kingdom. His most recent place of employ was the Whitfield Clinic in Co. Waterford, where he was employed whilst an investigation into his conduct was being carried out.
Though Dr van Greene has filed for bankruptcy, this should not mean that his seven former patients will not be able to claim compensation. If they are awarded any compensation, the settlements will be paid out by the gynaecologist’s former medical indemnity insurance company.

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.

 

Teenager Compensated for Paralysing Birth Injuries

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An eighteen year-old man has received a seven-figure settlement of compensation for birth injuries he sustained a mismanaged delivery and negligent post-natal care.

On the 6th September 1996, Thomas O’Connor was born at the Sligo General Hospital. As he was suffering from foetal distress syndrome, Thomas was delivered via an emergency Caesarean Section. However, when he was delivered he lacked any vital signs and needed to be resuscitated with a breathing tube by staff.

Thomas’ mother, Ann, claims that both his delivery and postnatal care were negligent, which resulted in Thomas being deprived of oxygen twice. This caused Thomas to sustain severe brain damage that rendered him a spastic quadriplegic. He is also bling and needs to obtain nourishment via a tube.

Acting on her son’s behalf, Ann made a claim for medical negligence compensation against the Sligo General Hospital. In the claim, she alleged that Thomas’ birth had been delayed for up to four hours. Additionally, she claimed that the breathing tube that had been used to resuscitate Thomas had been inserted incorrectly, which caused Thomas to have a heart attack whilst in Intensive Care.

The allegations were disputed by the Health Service Executives, who denied that they were liable for Thomas’ injuries. The case then proceeded to Dublin’s High Court, where Mr Justice Kevin Cross oversaw proceedings. During the hearing, an expert witness testified that a CTG trace that had showed that Thomas was suffering from foetal distress had been stopped. Additionally, the tube was inserted to a depth of fourteen centimetres, against guidelines that it should have been inserted to a depth of nine to ten centimetres.

A settlement of compensation worth €1.75 million had been offered by the Sligo General Hospital without an admission of liability. Judge Cross proceeded to approve the settlement, commenting that he was pleased that the ordeal, which had been very drawn-out, was finally finished for the family.

Multi-Million Settlement Awarded For Birth Injuries

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Dublin’s High Court have approved a seven—figure settlement for a child who sustained severe injuries to his brain as the result of a mismanaged birth.

In April 2005, Alex Butler was born at the Waterford Regional Hospital. However, she was described as “blue and lifeless” when she was born because a substitute obstetrician (who was covering for Alex’s mother’s regular doctor) did not identify that there were indications of danger. As such, Alex’s birth was delayed by ten minutes, during which time he was deprived of oxygen.

As a result of the delay in his birth, Alex sustained dramatic brain damage. She is now confined t a wheelchair as she is tetraplegic and will be reliant on care and support for the rest of her life. However, despite these challenges, Alex was descried in court as having a “bright personality with a huge intelligence”.

Acting on behalf of her daughter, Sonya Butler made a claim against the Health Service Executives (HSE) for Alex’s birth injuries. In 2013, the HSE acknowledged that they were liable for the injuries Alex sustained. An interim settlement of compensation was then negotiated between the parties.

The case was then adjourned for two years such that a new system of compensation settlements could be introduced. However, as this system was never enacted, the case went to the High Court of Dublin to be settled by Mr Justice Anthony Barr.

During the hearing, a representative for the Waterford Regional Hospital read a statement expressing regret for Alex’s injuries. However, after this there was a dispute as to how much compensation Alex was entitled.

The negotiations proceeded for eighteen days before a final settlement of €9 million was agreed upon. Judge Barr approved this figure, commenting that it was reasonable and sensible.

However, after the hearing finished, Alex’s parents expressed their disbelief concerning the protracted nature of the negotiations. In a comment to a reporter, Sonya said that “They fought tooth and nail. They basically want Alex to have an existence, not a life. They want her to scrape by with the bare minimum rather than her having the life that she should have had.”

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.