Family´s Claim for Hospital Obstetric Negligence Settled at Court

The family of a girl, who suffered brain damage at birth when a locum doctor failed to recognise the necessity for a Caesarean section, have had their claim for hospital obstetric negligence settled at the High Court.

Sonya Butler from Dunmore in County Waterford was admitted to Waterford Regional Hospital in April 2005 after a healthy pregnancy and was looking forward to delivering her first child. However, her consultant obstetrician – John Bermingham – and the hospital´s two other obstetric doctors had all been allowed to take leave at the same time, and the hospital had called in a locum – Mahmud Khbuli – to cover for them.

Tragically, Dr Khbuli failed to recognise the necessity for a Caesarean section during Sonya´s pre-operative assessment and, when Sonya´s daughter – Alex – was delivered, she had experienced an oxygen deficiency in the womb which resulted in the little girl suffering brain damage and being born tetraplegic.

Through her mother, Alex made a claim for hospital obstetric negligence against the hospital, Dr Bermingham and Dr Khbuli; alleging that the hospital was negligent by failing to have an adequate number of properly trained and competent medical staff to manage her delivery, that Dr Bermingham should not have taken leave when the family had opted for private treatment and that Sonya´s pre-operative assessment by Dr Khbuli was substandard.

At the High Court, the Health Service Executive (HSE) admitted that mistakes were made which should never have happened and an apology was read out to the family by a representative of Waterford Regional Hospital. The court heard that the action against Drs Bermingham and Khbuli had been dropped and compensation of €1.4 million had been agreed as an interim settlement of the family´s claim for hospital obstetric negligence.

The figure is to be reviewed in two years time, when Alex´s future care needs have been assessed and there may be the option of a structured settlement.