Court Approves Compensation for Delayed Surgery which Resulted in Fatal Injury

The High Court has approved a €165,000 settlement of compensation for delayed surgery which resulted in a fatal injury to a 60-year-old wife and mother.

Helen Malone from Carlow died on 12th January 2006 at St Luke´s General Hospital in Kilkenny, four days after she had undergone surgery for a bowel complaint. An inquest into her death revealed that Helen died due to systemic sepsis and multiple organ failure brought about by a perforated bowel and that, had she had the operation sooner, there was a strong likelihood that Helen would have survived.

Because the operation for Helen´s bowel complaint had been delayed several times, her widower – Patrick – made a claim for compensation for delayed surgery which resulted in a fatal injury. He claimed in his action against St Luke´s General Hospital, consultant surgeon George Nessim and the HSE, that Helen´s avoidable death had caused him and Helen´s six adult children great mental distress.

In 2009, the Irish Medical Council found Dr Nessim guilty on four counts of professional misconduct in relation to Helen´s death, but the HSE refused to acknowledged liability for failing to meet the appropriate standard of care. Court proceedings were issued, and after five separate postponements, the case came before Mr Justice Ryan at the High Court.

At the hearing, Judge Ryan was told that a settlement of compensation for the delayed surgery which resulted in fatal injury to Helen had been agreed amounting to €165,000. The judge was also informed that as a condition of the settlement, the HSE had to read an apology to the family acknowledging that the standard of care afforded to Helen was sub-standard and led to a series of events which caused her untimely death.

After hearing the apology read to the family, Judge Ryan approved the compensation settlement – commending both sides for settling “a difficult, painful and tragic case”.