Judge Approves Settlement of Claim against HSE for Birth Injuries

A judge at the High Court has approved the settlement of a claim against the HSE for birth injuries which resulted in a young boy suffering from cerebral palsy.

Six-year-old Dylan Gaffney from Kilcohan Park in Waterford was born at the Waterford Regional Hospital in a poor condition on July 22nd 2007, after his mother – Jean – had undergone an emergency Caesarean Section and no paediatrician was immediately available to resuscitate him.

Jean Gaffney had earlier requested a Caesarean Section delivery for Dylan; as her first daughter was delivered in an emergency operation after 51 hours of labour and she had miscarried a second child. However, her obstetrician had suggested a natural birth would be preferable, despite an ultrasound prior to Dylan´s birth indicating that he weighed nine pounds and four ounces.

The ultrasound was conducted two days prior to Dylan´s birth when Jean had attended the Waterford Regional Hospital because she believed her waters had broken. She was assured that everything was okay and given an antenatal appointment for five days later; but, on the morning of the 22nd July, Jean went into spontaneous labour and was admitted into the hospital.

Jean was given the drug oxytocic to stimulate her contractions and told to start pushing. In the High Court, Jean´s solicitor stated that the directions given to Jean were inappropriate in the circumstances, and a Caesarean should have been performed straight away. Instead, hospital staff waited until after 2.00pm in the afternoon before transferring Jean to theatre.

Unfortunately, Dylan had been denied oxygen in the womb and, when he was born, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and other birth injuries.

Jean sought legal advice and made a claim against the HSE for birth injuries on her son´s behalf. Jean and her solicitor also wrote the State Claims Agency in June 2009 with evidence of the hospital negligence that resulted in Dylan´s condition compiled by an independent medical expert.

Despite the evidence clearly indicating that Dylan´s birth injuries could have been avoided and were attributable to hospital negligence before, during and after his delivery, the State Claims Agency failed to acknowledged the hospital´s responsibility for Dylan´s condition and refused to consider Jean´s claim against the HSE for birth injuries.

Court proceedings were reluctantly issued, while Jean and her partner – Thomas Hayes – put their lives to one side in order to care for Dylan. It was only shortly before Jean´s claim against the HSE for birth injuries was due to be heard in court that liability for Dylan´s cerebral palsy was admitted, and negotiations started to find a suitable settlement.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine at the High Court in Dublin was told that an agreement had been reached for Dylan to receive a lump sum payment of €8.5 million. After hearing the circumstances of the claim against the HSE for birth injuries, the judge approved the settlement; but criticised the conduct of the State Claims Agency and Health Service Executive for the delay in admitting liability – causing additional stress for Dylan and his family.