Claim for the Death of a Child due to Medical Misadventure Heard in Court

The €70,000 settlement of a compensation claim for the death of a child due to medical misadventure has been approved at the High Court.

On 20th November 2012, Fiona Watters attended the Cavan General Hospital in the later stages of her first pregnancy. Fiona was admitted to the hospital and, at 10:30am on the morning of 22nd November, her waters broke. Under the care of consultant obstetrician Dr Salah Aziz, Fiona was administered Prostiglandin to accelerate her labour.

The dosage of Prostiglandin was increased throughout the day and, at 9:30pm that evening, a natural birth was attempted. Despite pushing for an hour the baby´s head was still not visible and the duty midwife called Dr Aziz to advise him the indications were that the infant was suffering foetal distress.

Dr Aziz attempted to organize a C-section delivery, but discovered that the only out-of-hours theatre at the hospital was occupied. A forceps delivery and a vacuum delivery were both attempted unsuccessfully, and Fiona had to wait until the out-of-hours theatre became available in order to deliver her son.

When Jamie was born, he was in a very poor condition. He was resuscitated and transferred to the special care baby unit at the Rotunda Hospital. Tragically Jamie died in his mother´s arms two days later.

An investigation was launched into the cause of baby Jamie´s death, but the report subsequent to the investigation was quashed by the High Court in August 2013 following Dr Aziz´s assertions that investigators from the Health Service Executive had not conducted the investigation according to the correct procedures.

Having received an advanced copy of the report, Fiona and her partner – Francis Flynn – sought legal advice and made a compensation claim for the death of a child due to medical misadventure. The Health Service Executive failed to accept liability for Jamie´s death until July 2014, and subsequently commissioned a second investigation into his death.

In December 2014, an inquest into Jamie´s death confirmed that he had died due to medical misadventure. The coroner attributed the increase in the administration of Prostiglandin, Dr Aziz´s failure to inform the hospital registrar that the drug had been administered, and the lack of a second out-of-hours theatre at the hospital being causative events.

Following the coroner´s verdict, the solicitor representing Fiona and Francis negotiated a settlement of the compensation claim for the death of a child due to medical misadventure with the State Claims Agency. Due to the traumatic circumstances of Jamie´s birth and the protracted nature of the investigations into Jamie´s death, the settlement amounted to €70,000.

As the settlement of the claim for the death of a child due to medical misadventure had to be approved by a judge before the case could be closed, the circumstances of Jamie´s birth and the subsequent delays experienced by the family were related to Mr Justice Richard Humphreys at the High Court. Judge Humphreys approved the settlement, stipulating that €5,000 should be paid into court funds for the benefit of Fiona and Francis´ daughter when she becomes a legal adult.