The High Court has been told that a girl with cerebral palsy may not have been inflicted with any brain injury had she been delivered ten minutes earlier.
Taking the birth injury compensation action through her mother Martine, Faye Walsh (7) sued the Health Service Executive and two consultant obstetricians, claiming that medical negligence and a breach of agreement in relation to the management and circumstances of her birth took place at University Hospital Galway on August 15, 2011. The defendants deny the allegations.
Mrs Walsh was a private patient of Dr Una Conway, a consultant obstetrician, throughout her pregnancy with Fay, Dr Conway and Dr Declan Egan, the second defendant obstetrician, run their own private medical practices at Brooklawn Practice, Brooklawn House, Galway West Business Park, and also practice as consultants in the Galway hospital.
Mrs Walsh opted for a private obstetrician as she had one previous birth by caesarean section and experienced serious abdominal injuries following a road accident in 2008. One of the main disputes in the legal action relates to the information that Mrs Walsh was given regarding the risks of a vaginal delivery. The defendants claim that the options and risks were explained and argue that Mrs Walsh wanted, and agreed to, a vaginal delivery.
The HSE denies that delivery was unreasonably delayed and said that vacuum assisted delivery using a plastic or metal cup attached to the baby’s head was also reasonable.
In her legal action Mrs Walsh says that she was aware that Dr Conway was on annual leave in August 2011 and would not be present at the delivery but claims that she had been advised by Dr Conway that Dr Egan would be there and was familiar with her history.
The defendants do not agree that Mrs Walsh was told Dr Egan would be present. They argue that Mrs Walsh was given an information sheet stating her delivery would be supervised, in the event of Dr Conway being absent, by a covering consultant obstetrician on call for the hospital.
Mrs Walsh claims that neither defendant obstetrician was called to the hospital when, or after, Ms Walsh went into labour about 11pm on Sunday August 14, 2011, despite requests for this by both her and her husband. The court was informed that the on call hospital obstetrician was called to the hospital from his home around 4.30am on the morning of August 15.
The official record of the birth shows that an obstetric registrar was also called and used a Kiwi cup to the baby’s head and that the on-call obstetrician completed the delivery of the baby at 4.55am. Faye was delivered in very poor health and had to be immediately resuscitated. She has spastic quadriplegia, is non verbal, a full time wheelchair user and will require 24-hour care for the rest of her life.
Most of her care is provided by her parents and she is a “happy, content and smiling child” who gets on well at her community primary school and loves the TV cartoon Peppa Pig, the judge was told.
The case is expected to last a number of weeks.