All Posts in Category: Medical Malpractice

Court Approves Interim Settlement of Dyskinetic Cerebral Palsy Compensation

The High Court has approved an interim settlement of dyskinetic cerebral palsy compensation for a twelve year old girl who suffered birth injuries due to the negligence of an obstetric consultant.

Mary Conroy attended the Midland Regional Hospital in Portloaise on 10th November 2001 believing that her waters had broken while pregnant with her first child. Mary was sent home after being reassured that everything was fine, but three days later attended the clinic of her private consultant obstetrician – Dr John Corristine – and, following an ultrasound, Mary insisted she be admitted into hospital.

At the Midland Regional Hospital, a CTG scan failed to show any sign of contractions, and Mary was advised to take a bath – however insufficient hot water was available at the hospital in order for her to do so. Dr Corristine then prescribed medicine that should induce labour and left the hospital. He failed to return during Mary´s labour or when she gave birth to her daughter.

Roisin was born the following morning, but suffered seizures soon after her birth and was transferred to a hospital in Dublin with more suitable neo-natal facilities. However, Roisin´s condition failed to improve and she was diagnosed with dyskinetic cerebral palsy – as a result of which she is permanently disabled and can only communication with eye movement.

Mary blamed herself for Roisin´s devastating birth injuries, and insisted on having two further children delivered by Caesarean Section. Both she and her husband Kevin gave up their jobs to care for Roisin, believing what the hospital had told them that nothing could have been done to prevent the tragedy and that they were “just unlucky”.

However, after speaking with a solicitor, an investigation was launched into the events prior to Roisin´s birth, and the couple made a claim for dyskinetic cerebral palsy compensation against the Health Service Executive (HSE) and Dr Corristine.  Both defendants denied their liability for Roisin´s injuries for almost two years until – five weeks before a court hearing was due to take place – both the hospital and Dr Corristine admitted that mistakes had been made in the management of Mary´s pregnancy.

An interim settlement of dyskinetic cerebral palsy compensation amounting to €2.3 million was negotiated and, at the High Court in Dublin, the settlement was approved by Ms Justice Mary Irvine after an apology was read to the family by an HSE representative and Dr Corristine. Ms Justice Mary Irvine then adjourned the case for two years so that a study of Roisin´s future needs can be made and to allow time for legislation to be passed allowing a structured compensation payment system.

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Victims Claim Symphysiotomy was Medical Negligence

A spokesperson for the Survivors of Symphysiotomy has claimed that the group will not enter into mediation over compensation while the government fail to acknowledge that the practise of symphysiotomy was medical negligence.

Survivors of Symphysiotomy chair – Marie O´Connor – was speaking at an emergency general meeting convened in Dublin to discuss proposals from Minister for Health James Reilly that the support group should participate in a negotiated mediation to obtain compensation for survivors of the barbaric procedure, rather than take action through the courts.

In her address to the group, Ms O´Connor said that the proposed scheme is exploitative and they do not want to be involved in it – stating that the system proposed by James Reilly “seeks to buy their silence”. She claimed that Minister Reilly´s proposals were based on the draft findings of the government-commissioned Walsh Report, in which it was found that the majority of the symphysiotomy procedures that were carried out were “medically acceptable” under the circumstances.

Ms O´Connor argued that members of the group were betrayed by the medical professionals at the time and, by the government denying that symphysiotomy was medical negligence, the victims are also being denied access to the courts and a “fair and equitable” settlement of compensation for the pain and anguish the women suffered during and after undergoing a symphysiotomy procedure.

The group has requested compensation of between €250,000 and €450,000 for each survivor of the surgery, and has called on the government to move ahead with legislation first accepted in April to remove the Statute of Limitations which time-bars their eligibility to claim compensation for symphysiotomy medical negligence.

Two other survivor support groups – Patient Focus and SOS Ltd – have indicated that they are in favour of Minister Reilly´s proposals, saying it could be less traumatic and time consuming for the victims; however Ms O´Connor stated fervently that she did not want to see a Magdalene-type settlement, in which some survivors were offered as little as €11,500. “Victims will not allow themselves to be re-victimised by being forced to collude with the official line that symphysiotomy was acceptable medical practice,” she said.

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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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Conference Calls for Better Access to Medical Negligence Legal Aid

Delegates at a Dublin conference organised by Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) have heard speakers calling on the government to provide better access to medical negligence legal aid.

The conference – hosted at the Radisson Blu Royal Hotel in Dublin City Centre – was chaired by AvMA´s Chief Executive, Peter Walsh, and included among its guest speakers Sheila O´Connor from Patient Focus and Dublin City Coroner, Dr Brian Farrell.

Delegates at the conference heard two leading Irish solicitors argue that it was harder than ever for those affected by medical negligence in Ireland to seek justice and whether the lack of medical negligence legal aid in Ireland to fund legal action was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The conference was told that over 100,000 ‘adverse events’ were reported in the health system by the Health Service Executive (HSE) last year, but only 635 court summons were issued. Although not every ‘adverse event’ would necessarily result in an injury, it was claimed that thousands of patients are unable to take legal action because access to medical negligence legal aid is very limited.

Medical Negligence Legal Aid

Access to medical negligence legal aid in Ireland is currently means tested and only available to those with a limited disposable income. Even those seeking advice to see if they are eligible to make a medical negligence compensation claim are expected to contribute towards the costs of running the service.

If you believe you have suffered a loss, an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition due to an ‘adverse medical event’, many solicitors will offer free, confidential legal advice without any obligation on you to pursue a medical negligence compensation claim thereafter. 

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Private Members Bill will Allow Symphysiotomy Claims for Compensation

A Private Members Bill, proposed by Sinn Féin’s Health Spokesman Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, last night passed through its second stage to allow symphysiotomy claims for compensation.

The bill, which intends to lift the Statute of Limitations for one year and enable victims of symphysiotomy procedures performed between 1940 and 1990 to claim compensation, will now go to committee stage while an independent study – the Walsh Report – is carried out to assess the future needs of the women who underwent the procedures.

Speaking in the Dáil, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin said “Lifting the statute bar – unanimously recommended by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice in June 2012 – would obviate procedural battles and ensure unfettered access for all to the courts. Judges here have no discretion in relation to the statute bar, as they do in other common law jurisdictions”.

In reply, Health Minister Dr James Reilly said he would not oppose the proposed legislation to allow symphysiotomy claims for compensation despite its “serious flaws”. He warned that although Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin’s bill might not achieve its objectives, the coalition did not want to send out the “wrong message” by opposing the proposed legislative changes.

Many of the surviving victims who underwent symphysiotomy procedures were in Leinster House to hear the proceedings, and they gave the Health Minister a round of applause when he concluded his speech by saying he would ensure closure for the survivors of symphysiotomy by the end of the year.

A spokesman for Minister Reilly later said that, in addition to accepting the Private Members Bill that seeks to remove the Statute of Limitations for victims of symphysiotomy and pubiotomy performed on them without medical justification, and allow symphysiotomy claims for compensation, the Government is also examining how best to meet the health and social needs of women affected.

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Leading Causes of Clinical Negligence Claims Revealed in Report

A report compiled by the State Claims Agency has revealed the leading causes of 166 clinical negligence claims for compensation closed in 2010, with poor staff knowledge heading the list.

The report, compiled by the clinical risk team of the State Claims Agency,  only accounts for claims for clinical negligence compensation covered by the Clinical Indemnity Scheme and not compensation for non-medical accidents in hospitals and clinics which result in injuries to patients, visitors or staff.

It revealed that, of the 166 clinical negligence claims closed in 2010, 44.2 percent of claims for clinical negligence were due to poor staff knowledge, skills or competency. The second most common reason for settlements of clinical negligence compensation was a failure in communications (14.4 percent) with a lack of effective leadership coming a close third (9.6 percent).

Among the other primary reasons for clinical negligence claims were:-

  • Safety culture issues (8.7 percent)
  • Lack of guidelines or protocols (6.7 percent)
  • Inadequate supervision (5.8 percent)
  • Insufficient staff to cope (2.9 percent)

By speciality, the majority of claims for clinical negligence were attributable to surgical errors (27.1 percent), emergency medicine (25.9 percent) and obstetrics (18.7 percent), while the leading “contributory factors” in clinical negligence compensation claims were delay or failure to treat (11.2 percent), delay or failure to recognise complications (10.6 percent) and misdiagnosis of a medical condition (4.7 percent).

Commenting on the report, Debbie Dunne – Clinical Risk Advisor at the State Claims Agency – said “This is consistent with the trend in 2009. Over 50 per cent of these cases were within the specialties of surgery and emergency medicine”.

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Symphysiotomy Injuries Compensation Awarded

A woman, who underwent a symphysiotomy procedure at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in 2000, has been awarded €591,297 symphysiotomy injuries compensation by the High Court.

Tracey Nelson, aged 45, from Navan in County Meath has the procedure prior to the delivery of her second child, when medical staff at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda failed to diagnose the symptoms of symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD).

After many years suffering with the physical discomfort from the symphysiotomy, Tracey underwent the procedure in 2004 to stabilise her condition and again, in 2007, had to be fitted with a spinal cord stimulator – since when she has been practically free of pain.

However, as Tracey conveyed to Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill at the High Court, she has also suffered psychologically due to the negligence of the medical staff who did not fulfil their duty of care to manage her pregnancy.

Ms Nelson informed the court she had developed fibromyalgia – where she had constant pain in her muscles and joints – and as a result of this pain, started to drink alcohol heavily. This resulted in her marriage break up and, in turn, depression.

Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital did not admit liability for her injuries, but Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill ruled that he was content from the medical evidence there was a failure to diagnose SPD on February 2nd when Tracey attended the hospital complaining that she was suffering from pain in the pelvic area.

The judge said that he was in no doubt that the “primary cause” of Tracey´s physical and psychological injuries was the negligence of the HSE and “terrible consequences” that went with this. “I am quite satisfied that the failures in this regard fell substantially below the standard of care to be expected of doctors practising obstetrics in a maternity unit such as Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda,” he stated.

Awarding Tracey €591,297 in symphysiotomy injuries compensation, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill said that he was also happy that the doctors and midwives who attended Ms Nelson were “oblivious” to her SPD condition and consequently took no precautions to avoid the risk of avoidable injury during the course of her labour.

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Secretary Awarded Hysterectomy Error Compensation

A woman, who suffered both physical and emotional injuries due to the negligence of a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, has been awarded €438,000 in hysterectomy error compensation following a court hearing.

Cynthia Kinsella (52) from Terenure, Dublin, underwent the hysterectomy at Mount Carmel Hospital in April 2008 after developing menorrhagia – a condition where the sufferer experiences heavy menstrual bleeding. Three weeks after her operation she started leaking from her bladder – a condition known as a fistula – which lead to serious distress and loss of amenity.

The consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist who oversaw the operation Dr. Gerry Rafferty – also assisted at a second operation in July in an attempt to eradicate the problem; where it was discovered that menorrhagia may have occurred due to a misplaced suture in the bladder. After discovering that the probable cause of her injury was her surgeon´s negligence, Cynthia sought legal advice and subsequently made a claim for negligent hysterectomy compensation.

Dr Rafferty denied his liability for Cynthia´s hysterectomy error – claiming that her condition was due to an uncommon complication of the hysterectomy operation – however, at Dublin´s High Court, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill did not accept the surgeon´s argument and found in favour of Cynthia for hysterectomy error compensation.

In calculating how much Cynthia should receive in compensation for a mistake during a hysterectomy, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O´Neill was advised that in November 2008 Cynthia had been made redundant from her senior secretarial job with a firm of engineers. Ms Kinsella has not worked since the redundancy due to the repercussions of the combination of her fistula condition and the severe anxiety disorder she developed as a result of her surgeon´s negligence.

The judge said that it was clear that Cynthia´s ability to work had been affected by her illness and that there was little prospect of her finding a job in the future because of it. Awarding Cynthia €200,000 hysterectomy error compensation for past and future pain and suffering, €225,000 compebsation for past and future loss of earnings and €13,184 for medical negligence special damages, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill said that had Cynthia not suffered as a result of the hysterectomy operation, he believed she would have most likely found alternative employment after her redundancy.

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Injury Compensation Claims for Whiplash Dropping According to Government Statistics

Figures released by the Department for Works and Pensions Compensation Recovery Unit have revealed that claims for whiplash injury compensation have fallen year-on-year by more than 4 percent.

A total of 547,405 claims for whiplash injury compensation were recorded by the Compensation Recovery Unit in 2011/2012, whereas in the previous twelve months 571,111 whiplash injury compensation claims were registered.

The fall in the volume of claims for whiplash injury compensation was noted by president of the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL) – Karl Tonks – when he was giving evidence to a Transport Select Committee ahead of the latest amendments to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill 2012.

Mr Tonks also produced the results of a survey prepared on behalf of APIL by market research company Canadean which showed that 40 percent of people eligible to make claims for whiplash injury compensation declined to do so. The survey also revealed that 1 percent of respondents to the survey had suffered a whiplash injury in the past twelve months, while 20 percent of those had experienced a whiplash injury in the past suffered symptoms of their whiplash injury for more than twelve months.

The Government is expected to announce plans for new specialist medical panels to support improvements in the diagnosis of whiplash and to increase from 1,000 pounds to 5,000 pounds the value up to which claims can be handled by the small claims court, but Mr Tonks warned the Transport Select Committee that the Government could be embarking on a potentially damaging reform agenda.

Acknowledging that a “universal commitment was required to reduce the number of fraudulent claims for whiplash injury compensation, Mr Tonks added “But it’s even more important to stand firm against any move to put barriers in the way of the majority of people who have genuine injuries and who need to make genuine claims.” Mr Tonks presented a ten point plan to the Transport Select Committee which he hoped could be discussed with the Government.

1. Information on fraud to be freely available to all parties to help identify fraudsters

2. Claimants to be subject to a legally binding statement of truth

3. Ban insurers from paying compensation without medical evidence

4. No offers of gifts or cash to potential clients to be made by any party

5. Enforcement of future ban preventing insurers from selling claimants´ details

6. Identities of potential expert witnesses to be shared by both sides

7. New guidance to help medics identify and understand whiplash injury

8. Photo ID to be provided when attending a medical

9. Claimant´s solicitor to organise access to relevant medical records

10. Spam texting to be banned

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Compensation for Child Mismanaged Birth Approved in Court

A woman, who was starved of oxygen at birth and has suffered a lifetime of learning difficulties, has had a settlement of child mismanaged birth compensation approved at London´s Royal Courts of Justice.

Susanne Turner (45) from Wittersham in Kent was born at Buchanan Street Hospital in St Leonards-on-Sea after a delayed Caesarean operation due to neither a surgeon nor an anaesthetist being on call to perform the procedure. As a result, Susanne was deprived of oxygen in the womb, unable to breathe on her own when she was given birth to and suffered severe brain damage.

Susanne´s parents – Christopher and Sandra – raised Susanne without any assistance, and  not aware that they were entitled to claim compensation for the child mismanaged birth, until they read a magazine article which explained Susanne´s rights to compensation.

When they sought legal advice about their situation, Christopher and Sandra discovered that – as Susanne did not have the mental capacity to bring a claim for child mismanaged birth compensation herself – they were still within the time frame allowed to sue the South East Coast Strategic Health Authority for the negligent situation which had occurred in 1967.

After reviewing the claim for child mismanaged birth compensation, South East Coast Strategic Health Authority quickly admitted their liability for Susanne´s birth injury and, at the Royal Courts of Justice, issued a formal apology for the mismanagement of Susanne´s birth.

Approving the settlement of compensation for child mismanaged birth, which will take the form of annual payments and a lump sum payment to pay for a specially-adapted home for Susanne, judge Mrs Justice Nicola Davies paid tribute to Christopher and Sandra´s “love and devotion”. The settlement is thought to be worth 4.2 million pounds and will provide Susanne with the care she needs for the rest of her life.

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