Compensation for a Patient in a Coma Approved at the High Court

A €550,000 interim settlement of compensation for a patient in a coma due to alleged medical negligence has been approved at a hearing of the High Court.

In October 2011, seventy-one year old Robert Bolton – a former funeral director and talented musician – underwent surgery at St James Hospital in Dublin. The surgery on Robert´s oesophagus was initially considered successful. However, the following morning James suffered a heart attack due to a respiratory failure caused by sepsis.

Robert was moved to the intensive care unit of the hospital, where his condition deteriorated and he suffered a hypoxic ischaemic brain injury. He has been in a coma ever since – oblivious to the presence of his family and unable to communicate. Robert now relies of twenty-four hour specialist care to provide his basic needs.

Robert´s wife – Angela – engaged a solicitor to investigate the standard of care Robert had received after his surgery and throughout his stay in the intensive care unit. She subsequently claimed compensation for a patient in a coma on her husband´s behalf, alleging that the hospital had failed to diagnose Robert´s sepsis or identify that he was suffering from organ failure as a result.

The hospital contested the claim, but acknowledged that there had been failings in the standard of care. A €550,000 interim settlement of compensation for a patient in a coma was negotiated to ensure that Robert receives the care he needs for the next two years – after which a final settlement of the claim will be determined.

As the claim for compensation for a patient in a coma had been made on behalf of a plaintiff unable to represent themselves, the case went to the High Court for an approval hearing before Mr Justice Kevin Cross. Judge Cross was told the circumstances of Robert´s heart attack, its probable cause, and the consequences of his condition to his wife and family.

After Angela told Judge Cross the family was happy that Robert´s care would be provided for, the judge approved the interim settlement of compensation for a patient in a coma – commenting that the interim settlement was clearly the result of hard bargaining. The judge then closed the approval hearing, wishing Angela and her family all the best for the future.