The family of a deceased young mother who was pregnant and kept alive on life support due to doctors’ concerns about the Eighth Amendment have been awarded a €1.5m settlement including expenses.
Ms Perie was pronounced brain dead in late November 2014 at 26 years of age when she was 15 weeks pregnant. She had been kept alive on life support for an additional four weeks after this due to doctors’ concerns about the implications of the Eighth Amendment – since repealed – for the foetus. Life support was discontinued after her family obtained High Court orders to that end on December 26, 2014.
Of the final settlement, that was awarded for failings in care at Midland Regional Hospital in Mullingar, €1.3m will go to Natasha Perie’s two children, now aged 11 and nine. Her father Peter Perie later took proceedings in which the main claim was for damages for his two grandchildren, the girl now aged 11 and the nine-year-old boy, in relation to the loss of their mother’s care. Both children, who were born to separate men, had been residing with their mother in Mr Perie’s home but, since her death, have been living with their respective fathers.
The HSE admitted liability in the case but argued the extent of damages sought, some €3.2m. The State Claims Agency which had offered some €1.5m on behalf of the HSE. Nervous shock claims by seven family members were previously settled and Ms Perie’s daughter received €150,000 in those proceedings.
Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy heard the larger fatal dependency case, beginning yesterday, after a mediation failed to secure agreement and the €1.5m offer made earlier this week was not accepted.
An apology had been issued by the HSE for the family last November from the Mullingar hospital and the HSE in relation to issues with Ms Perie’s care at the hospital in late 2014. She was pronounced brain dead days after her admission there on November 27, 2014, but was then kept on life support.
Evidence was presented to Justice Murphy, from members of his extended family and the children’s fathers and relevant medics, in relation to the impact on the children of seeing their mother on life support. Dr Frances Colreavy said Ms Perie’s eyes did not shut properly. She said nurses informed her the children, especially the then six-year-old girl, were upset, with both refusing to touch their mother. The condition of the girl was referred to as “inconsolable”. A care expert also told the Court that both children would require live-in nannies until they left home. The judge expressed reservations about that and certain other aspects of the legal action.
However yesterday morning, following mediation talks, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was asked by Jonathan Kilfeather SC, instructed by Gillian O’Connor solicitor, of Michael Boylan Litigation, to approve the €1.5m offer.