The High Court has awarded a mother €100,000 failed sterilisation procedure compensation after the son she was never supposed to give birth to passed away when he was just six months old.
Karen Hurley-Ahern (41) from Newcastlewest, County Limerick, opted to undergo the sterilisation procedure in February 2001 after being advised by her GP that she had a rare blood-clotting condition that would present a serious risk to her she were to become pregnant again.
The surgical procedure was performed by gynaecologist Dr Victor Moore at the Tralee General Hospital in County Kerry, but in April 2002 Karen found that she was pregnant again and, after a stressful pregnancy, gave birth to baby Samuel on 10th October 2002 – six weeks early and following an emergency Caesarean section operation.
The baby, Samuel, suffered from severe abnormalities which were not related to Karen´s sterilisation operation, and had to remain in hospital for six months – kept alive with the assistance of life-support machines. In April 2003, Samuel experienced a severe heart attack and Karen and her partner – Garrett Ahern – made the decision to switch off the life-support machines that were helping Samuel survive.
After speaking with their solicitors, Karen and Garrett made a claim for failed sterilisation procedure compensation against Dr Moore and the Southern Health Board (now the Health Service Executive), for the trauma the couple had been through due to the unsuccessful sterilisation procedure.
Liability was not accepted by Dr Moore and the HSE as, they claimed, the procedure had been performed properly and the couple had been advised that there was a risk of failure. However, in the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Sean Ryan found on behalf of the claimants – acknowledging that Samuel´s disability was not a direct result of the failed sterilisation procedure, but commenting that Karen had suffered significantly due to the defendant’s negligence.
Awarding Karen €100,000 in failed sterilisation procedure compensation, Mr Justice Sean Ryan said that the award was in respect of the worry she had dealt with when she discovered she was pregnant, the suffering of childbirth, the distress of Samuel´s health and trauma after his death. However, no compensation award was made to Garrett as – as per Justice Sean Ryan – while he had undoubtedly endured emotional stress, there was no proof Garrett had suffered a defined psychiatric injury as a result.