All Posts in Category: GP Medical Negligence

Medical Negligence Compensation Payouts of €268m Made by State Claims Agency in last two years

The overall amount of compensation paid out by the State Claims Agency (SCA) in relation to medical negligence claims totals over half a billion euro in the past two years.

New figures released by Minister for Health Simon Harris show that the amount of compensation paid out by the State Claims Agency (SCA) in 2018 was €268.45m for medical negligence cases – an increase of €18.6 million – or 7.5% – on the €249.77m paid out in 2017. This brings the total amount of compensation for medical negligence paid out in 2017-18 to €518.2m.

The figures were provided by the State Claims Agency (SCA)  in response to a a written Dáil question by Fianna Fáil’s Finance spokesman, Michael McGrath. It also reveals that the highest sum paid out last year under medical negligence was €15.5m in relation to a cerebral palsy case compensation claim.

Cases linked to birth negligence or cerebral palsy accounted for seven of the top ten medical negligence payouts in 2018. The figures release indicate that, in the seven cerebral palsy cases, a total of €60.3m compensation was paid out in order to provide adequate treatment for the individuals concerned for the remainder of their lives.

The remainder of the top ten was made up of cases that in the top ten payments concerned a pay-out of €6.3 million for a clinical procedure at surgery and a separate payout of €5.9m under the same category.

The lowest payout in the top ten was €4.37 million paid out concerning a clinical procedure in the Gynaecology service.

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Man settles €850k Compensation Over his Wife’s Wrongful Death

Widower, Donal O’Sullivan, who took a wrongful death compensation action against a GP and the Health Service Executive after his wife died just a day after a blood test showed she had low levels of potassium, has settled his High Court compensation action for €850,000.

The court was told that mother-of-four Maureen O’Sullivan, who was in her 50s, should have been rushed to hospital after a test showed she had low levels of potassium. Due to this Mr O’Sullivan, from Crookstown Co Cork, sued GP Therese Crotty of Main Street, Ballincollig, Co Cork, and the HSE over the wrongful death of his wife on November 8, 2011.

It was alleged that on the previous November 4, Ms O’Sullivan had seen Dr Crotty as she was suffering from palpitations. A blood test was taken and taken for analysis at Cork University Hospital. On November 7 the result indicating severe hypokalaemia, a low level of potassium, was sent to the Doctor’s surgery in Ballincollig.

The GP, it is claimed, did not arrange to admit Ms O’Sullivan to hospital immediately upon learning she suffered severe hypokalaemia did not advise the patient that this is what she was suffering from.

Furthermore, it was argued that the HSE did not adequately communicate the importance of the abnormal blood test results to the doctor and that there was an absence of appropriate systems of communication. Additionally, it was further stated by Mr O’Sullivan’s legal representatives that the HSE had depended on a clerical officer to communicate the test results that they required urgent clinical attention.

In a letter read to the court, Dr Crotty and the HSE apologised for their role in the events that led to Ms O’Sullivan’s death. It addressed the O’Sullivan family on behalf of Dr Crotty saying: “I deeply regret the tragic circumstances that led to the death of your wife, mother and sister Ms Maureen O’Sullivan. I apologise unreservedly for the part I played in the events leading up to her death. I am acutely conscious of the pain and suffering which this has caused to you all.”

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Class Action for Side Effects of Sodium Valproate Started in France

A class action for the side effects of sodium valproate has been started in France on behalf of children who sustained foetal valproate syndrome in the womb.

Sodium valproate is an active ingredient of the drug Epilim. Epilim was introduced in Ireland in 1983 after successfully treating patients in France for epilepsy and bipolar disorder for almost twenty years. Because it works by stabilising electrical activity in the brain, Epilim has also been prescribed for migraine and chronic pain.

Unbeknown to the medical profession in Ireland, pregnant women taking Epilim break down the sodium valproate and it is absorbed into the bloodstream as valproic acid. The valproic acid travels along the bloodstream and into the womb, where it can have an adverse effect on the development of the foetus. Children who have sustained foetal valproate syndrome in the womb have been born with a wide range of health issues from autism to spina bifida, and from a cleft palate to kidney development problems.

The side effects of sodium valproate during pregnancy were identified before the drug was introduced in Ireland, but the evidence was allegedly covered up due to not being sufficiently conclusive. Small scale studies have also failed to conclusively prove a link between Epilim and the side effects of sodium valproate during pregnancy, but now France’s National Agency for the Safety of Medicines (ANSM) has looked deeper into the issue and produced an alarming report.

ANSM researched the health of 8,701 children born between 2007 and 2014 whose mothers were known to have taken the French-branded equivalent of Epilim during their pregnancies. The agency believes it has identified up to 4,100 children suffering from the side effects of sodium valproate and discovered that hundreds of stillbirths during the period were also attributable to foetal valproate syndrome.

The results of ANSM´s research have prompted a class action against in France against the manufacturer of Epilim – Sanofi – on behalf of the children who sustained foetal valproate syndrome in the womb. The parents of the children claim that Sanofi did not do enough to warn the medical profession of the risks associated with taking Epilim during pregnancy and the side effects of sodium valproate.

 In Ireland, it is not known how many children have been diagnosed with foetal valproate syndrome. A support group – the FACS Forum – has called on the government to conduct an audit to identify the scale of the problem in Ireland and what support measures are needed for families. For further information, the FACS Forum can be reached via the disability-federation.ie website, or you can speak with a solicitor.

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Minister Plans to Enforce Medical Negligence Open Disclosure Policy

Health Minister Simon Harris has announced that he is to push forward with legislation to enforce a medical negligence open disclosure policy.

The Health Minister´s intentions to push forward with legislation to enforce a medical negligence open disclosure policy were revealed in an address to delegates at the State Claims Agency´s first annual “Quality, Patient Safety & Clinical Risk Conference” at Dublin Castle on Monday.

Mr Harris said that the establishment of a new National Patient Safety Office would “lead a program of significant patient safety measures” that included a review of how adverse medical events are disclosed to patients and their families and the process for claiming medical negligence compensation.

The National Patient Safety Office will be led by a team of experts under the auspices of the Department of Justice and Equality. Its roles include:

  • Setting up a national patient advocacy service.
  • Introducing a patient safety surveillance system.
  • Establishing a national advisory council for patient safety.

The National Patient Safety Office will also be responsible for accelerating the progress of the Health Information and Patient Safety Bill – although enactment of the bill may not be possible until the EU has concluded its work on revised European-wide data protection standards.

This is because the Health Information and Patient Safety Bill contains measures to protect patients´ private healthcare information while aiming to create a national network of healthcare data to improve the provision and management of healthcare services throughout Ireland.

The news that the Health Minister at least intends to enforce a medical negligence open disclosure policy will be welcomed by legal figures and patient safety experts who have campaigned for many years for a legal duty of candour to be introduced.

Some have claimed that the HSE´s 2013 national guidelines for open disclosure have been widely ignored since their publication, and that former Health Minister Leo Varadkar missed an opportunity to enforce a medical negligence open disclosure policy in the Civil Liberty (Amendment) Bill 2015.

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Claim for Compensation for Deltacortril Side Effects Allowed to Proceed

A Cork woman´s claim for compensation for Deltacortril side effects has been allowed to proceed after a hearing at the High Court

Lorna Savage (43) from Cobh in County Cork was given permission to proceed with her claim for compensation for Deltacortril side effects after a motion to dismiss her case brought by one of the defendants was denied at the High Court.

Lorna had first been prescribed the steroid Deltacortril in 1997 to treat the skin condition vasculitis – a disorder which damages blood vessels and causes them to cluster together to form an unsightly and irritable rash on the surface of the skin.

After taking Deltacortril for several years, Lorna´s developed Avascular Necrosis – an uncommon but known side effect of Deltacortril – a disorder which stops blood reaching the bones of the knee and hip joints with the resulting effect that the bone tissue dies and the bone ultimately collapses.

By the time Lorna was thirty one years old, she had both knees and one hip replaced, and the Avascular Necrosis disorder had spread to such an extent that she was reliant on a wheelchair for her mobility and was permanently on morphine to control the pain.

After seeking legal advice, Lorna made a claim for compensation for Deltacortril side effects against the two doctors who had prescribed the steroid tablets for her – her GP, Dr. Michael Madigan, and Dr. M Molloy -her consultant doctor at the Cork University Hospital.

In her claim against Dr. Madigan, Lorna alleged that her GP had not investigated her skin condition fully and had negligently prescribed Deltacortril when he was (or should have been) aware of the possible side effects.  In her action against Dr. Molloy, Lorna alleged the consultant had failed to identify the symptoms of Avascular Necrosis and continued to prescribe the steroids.

Lorna also made a claim for compensation for Deltacortril side effects compensation against the manufacturer of the steroids – the pharmaceutical company Pfizer – alleging that the company had failed to include a warning in the literature accompanying the steroids that their continued use could cause Avascular Necrosis, and by neglecting to advise against drinking alcohol while taking the tablets.

The estate of Lorna´s GP (Dr. Madigan died in 1999), the HSE (of behalf of the Cork University Hospital where Dr. Molloy worked) and Pfizer denied that they had been negligent; and Pfizer applied to have Lorna´s claim for compensation for Deltacortril side effects dismissed on the grounds of “an inordinate and inexcusable delay” in bringing the case to court.

Mr Justice George Birmingham ruled that the delay was “excusable” after hearing that the delay in bringing the case to court was due to Lorna being unable to instruct her solicitors as she had recently undergone several major operations. The judge refused Pfizer´s application to dismiss the case – stating that Lorna´s claim for compensation for Deltacortril side effects would be listed for a full court hearing later in the year.

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Most Medical Malpractice Claims against GPs are for Wrong Diagnosis says RCSI

According to a report commissioned by the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland (RCSI), most medical malpractice claims against GPs are for wrong diagnosis.

The report – researched for the RCSI and recently published in the British Medical Journal – was compiled by the Centre for Primary Care Research in Dublin after more than seven thousand medical malpractice claims against GPs had been analysed. Its objective was to identify which areas of primary care required specific attention when developing risk management systems for primary healthcare practitioners and planning future educational strategies.

“The Epidemiology of Malpractice Claims in Primary Care: A Systematic Review” found that the most common reason for medical malpractice claims against GPs were for the missed or delayed diagnosis of cancer – specifically breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer and cancer of the female genital tract – medication errors (prescribing and administering) and, in children, the failure to correctly diagnose appendicitis and meningitis.

Lead researcher Dr Emma Wallace – who is herself a GP – acknowledged that medical malpractice claims against GPs were not the ideal substitute for adverse events, but commented that when medical malpractice claims are made against GPs, the doctors against whom the claims are made often suffer increased stress levels – reducing their effectiveness, and placing more patients at risk of a misdiagnosis or medication error.

Dr Wallace also highlighted the fact that GPs are more frequently practicing defensively due to the risk of litigation, and referring patients to consultants rather than make a diagnosis themselves. This unwillingness to use their experience to make a diagnosis can lead to patients´ conditions deteriorating further (due to the delay in seeing a consultant) and ultimately create more pressure on an under-resourced health service.

She hopes that the “systematic review is timely considering the increased interest in focusing on primary care as a way of improving patient care and safety” and that the report will provide an insight into the types of adverse events in clinical practice and the reasons for them happening, which would reduce the number of medical malpractice claims against GPs in Ireland and have the effect of increasing the standard of primary care provided.

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Medical Negligence Case Liability Assigned by Judge

The story of Jade Keane hit the national headlines in February this year, when Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill awarded Jade (10) a medical negligence settlement package of 7 million Euros for the devastating and permanent injuries of post natal hydrocephalus.

The judge had found that gross medical negligence by the Health Service Executive (HSE), the Holles Street National Maternity Hospital and Jade´s GP – Dr Dermot Stones of Ballybrack, County Dublin – had caused her to develop water on the brain in the weeks and months after her birth.

An initial payment of 4.75 million Euros was to be paid as an interim settlement by the HSE and the hospital – both of whom admitted that mistakes had been made, but denied that they amounted to actionable negligence – and, before Mr Justice Seán Ryan at the High Court, they sought indemnity or contribution from Dr Stones in relation to the damages.

After reviewing the case, the judge decreed that there was nothing to distinguish the blameworthiness of all three defendants – stating that they were equally “grossly inept” – and ruled that each should pay one third of the damages awarded by Mr. Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill in February.

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