Over 1,000 Unnecessary Deaths due to Medical Error in Ireland Annually

Roger Murray, a legal expert speaking at a medical negligence conference attended by solicitors, medical professionals and patients in early September,  said that around 1,000 unnecessary deaths happen annually every year due to medical negligence.

Mr Murray, joint Managing partner at Callan Tansey solicitors, stated that the most commonly experienced incidents relate to surgery (36 per cent) medicine (24 per cent), maternity (23 per cent) and gynaecology (7.5 per cent).

As a solicitor who has been involved in many medical negligence compensation cases, Mr Murray said that though injured patients and families do have empathy for medical professionals who make mistakes “they cannot abide is systemic and repeated errors”.

He called for thorough investigations when mistakes do happen and referred to many inquest situations where families learned that desktop reviews had been completed following a death, and the results were not disseminated to appropriate staff. A vital learning opportunity had been missed.

Mr Murray said 160,000 hospital visitors experience injuries due to human mistakes and errors. Mr Tansey was speaking at the Pathways to Progress conference on medical negligence and said that he believes that there is “no compo culture” to be witnessed when it comes to medical negligence compensation actions in Ireland, saying that what we are seeing in the legal system is just “the top of a very murky iceberg”.

He added that he feels that not all those injured in medical incidents report it. The HSE is notified of 34,170 “clinical incidents” annually and, o,f these 575 resulted in compensation claims against the HSE, a rate of less than 1.7 per cent.

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State Compensation Claims Costs Increased to €2.2bn during 2016

Compensation claims taken against the Health Service Executive (HSE) and child protection agency Tusla accounted for €1.9 billion of the €2.2 billion total paid out by the State in 2016 according to a report recently released by the State Claims Agency. This is an increase of 22 per cent.

The agency reported that the complete cost, at the end of 2016, of outstanding compensation claims against the State had risen 22 per cent to €2.2 billion.

Séamus McCarthy Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) stated that “the number of claims under management has increased significantly since 2011”. The State Claims Agency manages legal actions taken against the State. The body’s most recent set of accounts also shows that the number and cost of legal actions involving public bodies have been rising steadily in recent years.

Compensation awards and legal costs past out by the agency paid out in 2016 amounted to €256.2 million, roughly 20 per cent up on the 2015 figures. Additionally the figures released show an increase in the number of legal actions pending against the State of almost 3,000 from the 2011 figures. In 2011 there were 6,000 actions taken, compared to 8,900 in 2016.

Claims against the Department of Health accounted for €27 million. Cases against the Department of Education had an estimated bill of €50 million. Other government departments and bodies were responsible for compensation cases worth €27 million.

The State Claims Agency was established by the Irish Government in 2001 as a reaction to the surge in numbers of compensation claims being taken against the State. The body is part of the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), the body that borrows funds for the Government and helps manage the State’s finances.

The body mainly deals with compensation claims involving personal injury, clinical negligence and property damage taken against State bodies.

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Award of Hospital Fall Injury Compensation Put on Hold

A €58,500 award of hospital fall injury compensation – made in favour of a seventy-nine year old woman – has been put on hold by a Circuit Civil Court judge.

In April 2015, the woman from Finglas in Dublin attended the city´s Mater Misericordiae University Hospital as a day patient for a gastroscopy procedure. Following the procedure, she was left alone to recover from her sedation and, while attempting to get out of bed, fell – suffering a spinal fracture.

As a result of her accident, the woman spent nearly a month recovering in the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital before being transferred to the Orthopaedic Hospital in Clontarf for a further three months. She now has to permanently wear a lumbar brace and has to rely on a wheelchair for her mobility.

The woman subsequently made a claim for hospital fall injury compensation, alleging medical staff should not have left her on her own when it was known she had previously fallen at her home. She claimed the hospital had further failed in its duty of care by not adhering to its falls prevention policy.

The claim for hospital fall injury compensation was heard by Judge James O´Donohoe at the Circuit Civil Court. At the hearing, the judge was told the plaintiff had lost her independence due to the accident and was a changed woman as a result. The judge also heard testimony from an expert witness who said, considering the woman´s previous medical history, she should have been monitored more closely.

Finding that no special precautions had been taken to ensure the safety of a patient known to have fallen previously, Judge O´Donohoe awarded the woman €58,500 hospital fall injury compensation. He then put the award on hold pending an appeal from the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital subject to the hospital paying €30,000 of the compensation award at once.

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Judge Approves Settlement of Compensation for Birth Brain Injuries

A High Court judge has approved a $15 million settlement of compensation for birth brain injuries due to alleged negligence in favour of a nine-year-old boy.

At the High Court, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told the nine-year-old boy was born at Cork University Hospital at 9:00pm on August 11th 2008 after allegedly showing signs of foetal distress throughout the day. Among the alleged errors made by hospital staff prior to the boy´s delivery there had been a failure of skill in clinical history taking, and in the examination of the baby and his mother.

It was also alleged there had been an unreasonable delay in acting upon a CTG trace that indicated a variable decline in the foetal heart rate. As a result, it was claimed, the boy suffered brain birth injuries. Due to cerebral palsy and epilepsy, the boy suffers daily seizures, has visual and cognitive impairments, is confined to a wheelchair and requires full-time care. He will never be able to live independently.

Soon after the boy´s birth, his parents claimed compensation for birth brain injuries against Cork University Hospital and the HSE. Liability was eventually admitted in February last year after an eight-year wait, during which time the boy´s parents provided the majority of his care due to community services in Kerry being “almost non-existent” the boy´s mother told Judge Cross.

Prior to the judge approving the settlement of compensation for birth brain injuries, a statement was read to the family by representatives of Cork University Hospital, in which the hospital apologized for the errors that led to the boy´s brain injuries. The boy´s mother also read a statement to the court in which she described her son as a very happy boy who like being out on the fresh air.

Approving the settlement of compensation for birth brain injuries, Judge Cross ordered €720,000 of the settlement to be paid to the boy´s parents as special damages and the remainder to be paid into court. The judge said it was a very good settlement, and he wished the boy and his family well for the future.

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Advice about a Lip Implant Injury Compensation Claim

In order to receive legal advice relevant to your specific circumstances, speak with a solicitor about making a lip implant injury compensation claim.

If you have experienced an adverse event due to a poor standard of cosmetic surgery in Ireland, certain conditions have to be fulfilled before you can make a lip implant injury compensation claim. Having experienced an adverse event in itself is not sufficient grounds to claim compensation for a lip implant injury – particularly if you gave your informed consent prior to undergoing the procedure and were fully aware that the adverse event was a possible consequence.

Indeed, the first thing a solicitor will ask you is what information you were given before undergoing the procedure and whether you signed an agreement or contract. If so, your solicitor will need to review a copy to identify any exclusions or limits of liability. This will also help establish whether the adverse event was avoidable at the time and in the circumstances, and if your injury is attributable to a lack of skill or a lack of ability to demonstrate that skill.

If there is sufficient evidence to suggest “on the balance of probabilities” you have a lip implant injury compensation claim worth your while to pursue, your solicitor will write to the negligent cosmetic surgeon with a “Letter of Claim”. The letter will outline your injury and the consequences of your injury, explain why it is believed the injury was caused by negligence and request a proposal settlement of compensation for a lip implant injury.

An application for assessment will not be made to the Injuries Board, as lip implant injury compensation claims fall outside of their remit, and the value of your claim will be settled by negotiation once negligence has been acknowledged by the cosmetic surgeon. How much compensation for a lip implant injury you receive will depend on a number of factors including your age, whether or not the injury can be rectified and the reason for undergoing the procedure initially.

In this respect, your lip implant injury compensation claim will be unique from any other. To make sure you receive legal advice relevant to your specific circumstances, you should speak with a solicitor at the first practical opportunity.

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Woman Awarded Compensation for a Torn Artery during a Hospital Procedure

A fifty-year-old woman from Portlaoise has been awarded €855,000 compensation for a torn artery during a hospital procedure by a High Court judge.

The woman attended the Midland Regional Hospital in June 2002 for a routine diagnostic procedure to establish why she was unable to get pregnant. While she was under a general anaesthetic, a three-sided surgical instrument known as a trocar was inserted into her abdomen to allow for a laparoscopy.

However, during the insertion of the surgical instrument, the trocar punctured a vein and tore an artery, causing a significant amount of internal bleeding. A vascular surgeon was required to stop the bleeding, after which the woman spent two days on life support. As a consequence of the medical negligence, the woman continues to experience abdominal pain.

After seeking legal advice, the woman claimed compensation for a torn artery during a hospital procedure against the consultant obstetrician in charge of the procedure – Dr John Corristine – and the HSE. The defendants admitted liability for the original injury, but contested her continued abdomen pain was a consequence of the botched procedure.

At the High Court, Mr Justice Kevin Cross heard there was an alleged failure to ensure the equipment used for the laparoscopy procedure was in proper working order or that adequate precautions were in place to ensure the patient´s safety. He was told the woman lost eight pints of blood due to the torn artery, and that her pain and suffering is likely to persist for the rest of her life at its present level, if not worsen.

Judge Cross found that the botched medical procedure and the woman´s ongoing abdominal pain were linked. He said, although the injury was not catastrophic, the consequences of the medical negligence had significantly impaired the quality of the plaintiff´s life. Judge Cross awarded the woman €855,793 compensation for a torn artery during a hospital procedure to account for her past, present and future pain and suffering.

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Judge Approves Settlement of Meningitis Misdiagnosis Claim

A judge has approved the €5.6 million settlement of a meningitis misdiagnosis claim made on behalf of a young girl who had both legs avoidably amputated.

On the morning of 10th July 2005, the parents of the three-year-old girl phoned the South Doc out-of-hours doctor´s service in Cork, and expressed concerns about their daughter´s symptoms of a rash on her stomach, a high temperature, drowsiness and vomiting.

They were told to bring her into the South Doc clinic and, at 5:00am that morning, the girl was examined by Dr Leon Britz, who diagnosed tonsillitis and sent the family home. However, the young girl´s condition deteriorated in the following hours, and the family returned to the clinic at 9:30am.

On this occasion, a diagnosis of meningitis was made. The girl was taken to the A&E Department of Cork University Hospital, where she was administered antibiotics, and later transferred to Our Lady´s Children´s Hospital in Crumlin, where tragically she had to have both legs amputated below the knee. The girl, now fifteen years of age, underwent 132 operations over the following twelve years.

Through her mother, the girl made a meningitis misdiagnosis claim against Dr Britz and South West Doctors on Call Ltd – the providers of the South Doc out-of-hours doctor´s service. In the meningitis misdiagnosis claim it was alleged the girl suffered “profound consequences” due to the misdiagnosis and the opportunity was missed to administer antibiotics at an earlier stage.

Liability was admitted by the defendants and a settlement of the meningitis misdiagnosis clam amounting to €5.6 million was agreed between the parties. As the legal action had been taken on behalf of a minor, the proposed settlement had to be approved by a judge before it could be finalised to ensure it was in the girl´s best interests.

Consequently, at the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told the sequence of events on 10th July 2005 and of the “profound consequences”. After hearing that the girl was doing well at school and just about to sit her Junior Cert exams, the judge approved the settlement – congratulating her parents for the care they had given the girl and noting that the outcome could have been far worse.

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Class Action for Side Effects of Sodium Valproate Started in France

A class action for the side effects of sodium valproate has been started in France on behalf of children who sustained foetal valproate syndrome in the womb.

Sodium valproate is an active ingredient of the drug Epilim. Epilim was introduced in Ireland in 1983 after successfully treating patients in France for epilepsy and bipolar disorder for almost twenty years. Because it works by stabilising electrical activity in the brain, Epilim has also been prescribed for migraine and chronic pain.

Unbeknown to the medical profession in Ireland, pregnant women taking Epilim break down the sodium valproate and it is absorbed into the bloodstream as valproic acid. The valproic acid travels along the bloodstream and into the womb, where it can have an adverse effect on the development of the foetus. Children who have sustained foetal valproate syndrome in the womb have been born with a wide range of health issues from autism to spina bifida, and from a cleft palate to kidney development problems.

The side effects of sodium valproate during pregnancy were identified before the drug was introduced in Ireland, but the evidence was allegedly covered up due to not being sufficiently conclusive. Small scale studies have also failed to conclusively prove a link between Epilim and the side effects of sodium valproate during pregnancy, but now France’s National Agency for the Safety of Medicines (ANSM) has looked deeper into the issue and produced an alarming report.

ANSM researched the health of 8,701 children born between 2007 and 2014 whose mothers were known to have taken the French-branded equivalent of Epilim during their pregnancies. The agency believes it has identified up to 4,100 children suffering from the side effects of sodium valproate and discovered that hundreds of stillbirths during the period were also attributable to foetal valproate syndrome.

The results of ANSM´s research have prompted a class action against in France against the manufacturer of Epilim – Sanofi – on behalf of the children who sustained foetal valproate syndrome in the womb. The parents of the children claim that Sanofi did not do enough to warn the medical profession of the risks associated with taking Epilim during pregnancy and the side effects of sodium valproate.

 In Ireland, it is not known how many children have been diagnosed with foetal valproate syndrome. A support group – the FACS Forum – has called on the government to conduct an audit to identify the scale of the problem in Ireland and what support measures are needed for families. For further information, the FACS Forum can be reached via the disability-federation.ie website, or you can speak with a solicitor.

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Settlement of Compensation for Brain Damage at Birth Approved in Court

A €15 million lump sum settlement of compensation for brain damage at birth has been approved at the High Court in favour of a ten-year-old boy.

The boy was born by emergency Caesarean Section at Kerry General Hospital on May 25th 2006 following a catalogue of errors by hospital staff. Among a series of systematic failures resulting in the boy´s delivery being avoidably delayed by two hours, the consultant obstetrician was not made aware of a worrisome heart-rate pattern, the possibility of foetal hypoxia was not considered, and no action was taken on a CTG trace indicating foetal distress.

Due to the avoidable delay, the boy suffered devastating brain damage and was diagnosed with mixed dyskinetic spastic cerebral palsy. Now ten years of age, he requires 24-hour care, cannot speak and is confined to a wheelchair. To exacerbate the boy´s injuries, the HSE failed to admit liability for nine years, during which time the boy´s family had to care for him on their own without the support they should have received from the state.

The HSE only admitted liability early last year after being threatened with aggravated damages, and an interim settlement of €2.7 million compensation for brain damage at birth was rushed through the courts. Yesterday the family was back in court for the approval of a final lump sum settlement of compensation for brain damage at birth amounting to €15 million – an amount that was described as “commercial common and legal sense” by presiding judge Mr Justice Peter Kelly.

Approving the settlement, Judge Kelly paid tribute to the boy´s parents for the care of their son, and added while no money would compensate the boy and his family, it was the only form of redress the law could provide. He hoped it would give peace of mind that there is a fund to care for the boy´s needs into the future. As the boy is a ward of court, the settlement of compensation for brain damage at birth will be paid into court funds and managed by court authorities.

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Judge Approves Settlement of Compensation for Erb´s Palsy

A judge at the High Court has approved a €530,000 settlement of compensation for Erb´s palsy in favour of a six-year-old boy from County Kerry.

The boy on whose behalf the claim was made was born at Kerry General Hospital on March 22nd 2010. However, rather than being delivered by Caesarean section as had been requested by his mother on three separate occasions, the boy was delivered naturally with the assistance of a vacuum cup.

Due to the baby´s size, his shoulder got stuck as he passed through his mother´s birth canal and he suffered shoulder dystocia as medical staff tried to free him. Due to the force that was used during the procedure, the boy will now have a weakened left arm for the rest of his life.

On his son´s behalf, the boy´s father claimed compensation for Erb´s palsy against the Health Service Executive (HSE). Liability for the boy´s injuries was initially contested, but eventually the parties agreed on a settlement of compensation amounting to €530,000.

As the claim for compensation for Erb´s palsy had been made on behalf of a child, the settlement had to be approved by a judge to ensure it was in the boy´s best interests. The approval hearing took place earlier this week at the High Court before Mr Justice Kevin Cross.

At the hearing, Judge Cross was told that an ultrascan had shown the boy to be a large baby and, because of his potential size, his mother had requested a Caesarean section delivery during a consultation and again when she was admitted to hospital in labour.

The judge also heard that the boy is very good at maths and has learned to write with his left hand, although he is unable to close buttons or tie shoes and will struggle at sports later in life. The judge approved the settlement of compensation for Erb´s palsy and wished the family well for the future.

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