The High Court has found in favour of a young girl after hearing a claim for a water on the brain injury due to medical negligence.
At the age of three months old, Ava Kiernan from Duleek in County Meath developed the symptoms of hydrocephalus (“water on the brain”). Hydrocephalus is a condition caused by spinal fluid failing to drain from the brain and is most commonly identified in children under the age of one year by a rapid expansion of their head´s circumference or bulges appearing as “soft spots” around their skull.
Ava was examined by a public health nurse in April 2008 but, according to Ava´s mother – Ruth – the nurse failed to spot the symptoms of water on the brain despite Ruth raising concerns about her daughter´s condition. The nurse also neglected to recall Ava for a further examination within four weeks and a measurement of Ava´s head in September which could have also identified the condition was performed incorrectly.
As a result of the errors in her care, Ava developed mental and physical disabilities from which she will never recover. On Ava´s behalf, Ruth made a claim for a water on the brain injury due to medical negligence against the Health Service Executive (HSE) – a claim which the HSE contested.
The claim for a water on the brain injury due to medical negligence went to the High Court, where it was heard by Mr Justice Kevin Cross. After three weeks of evidence, Judge Cross found in Ava´s favour, saying that if Ava had been recalled four weeks after the initial head circumference measurement, or the subsequent measurement in September had been conducted correctly, Ava´s condition would have likely been suspected and she would have been referred to a specialist.
The judge continued by saying that, the hydrocephalus injury could have then been confirmed by a scan and treated by a shunt. This course of action, Judge Cross stated, would have prevented Ava´s brain damage from occurring. The judge said that the public health nurse´s failure to act was “materially causative” to Ava´s condition and he adjourned the claim for a water on the brain injury due to medical negligence in order that an assessment could be conducted to determine an appropriate compensation settlement.