All Posts Tagged: birth accident compensation action

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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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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Claim for Birth Injuries against Sligo General Hospital Heard in Court

A claim for birth injuries against Sligo General Hospital has been heard in the High Court ahead of the approval of an interim settlement of compensation.

In May 2010, the boy – on whose behalf the claim for birth injuries against Sligo General Hospital was made – was born by emergency Caesarean Section, more than two hours after a CTG trace had indicated he was suffering foetal distress in the womb. Due to the avoidable delay, the boy was starved of oxygen and now – six years of age – he suffers from cerebral palsy.

Although the boy has since moved to Canada, he made a claim for birth injuries against Sligo General Hospital through his mother. On behalf of Sligo General Hospital, the Health Service Executive (HSE) quickly acknowledged responsibility for the boy´s cerebral palsy injury and negotiations began to settle the claim. During mediation, HSE personnel not only apologised for a failure in its duty of care, but explained to the boy´s parents how the failure occurred.

Eventually it was agreed that the boy should receive an interim compensation settlement of €740,000 to cover the costs of his past care and the care he will need over the next five years. However, as the claim for birth injuries against Sligo General Hospital had been made on behalf of a child, the proposed settlement had to be approved by a judge to ensure it was in the boy´s best interests.

The approval hearing took place at the High Court, where Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told the circumstances surrounding the boy´s birth and the details of the settlement negotiations. As well as praising the boy´s parents for the care they had provided him with over the past six years, he commended the HSE for its attitude in the case.

Commenting that an apology and an explanation was “absolutely something to be encouraged”, Judge Cross approved the interim settlement of cerebral palsy compensation and adjourned the claim for birth injuries against Sligo General Hospital for five years. In five years, once assessments have been conducted to evaluate the boy´s future needs, the family hope that the option of a structured payment system will be in place to ensure their son´s financial security.

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Settlement of Claim for Nervous Shock against the HSE Approved at Court

The €98,000 settlement of a claim for nervous shock against the HSE (Health Service Executive) has been approved at a hearing of the High Court.

The claim for nervous shock against the HSE was made by a husband and wife from Ballyneety in County Limerick following the traumatic circumstances of their daughter´s death on July 15, 2010, at the Limerick Regional Maternity Hospital.

The couple´s baby girl – their fourth child – had been born in good health. However, due to alleged hospital negligence after her birth, the child died six hours after her birth. The cause of death was attributed to a severe loss of blood.

After seeking legal advice, the couple made a claim for nervous shock against the HSE. They alleged in their claim that the severe loss of blood was attributable to the height above the placenta to which the baby had been raised after her birth to untangle her from the umbilical cord.

They also alleged that there had been a failure to clamp the umbilical cord in an effective and timely manner, and that their daughter´s severe loss of blood had gone undetected until she became floppy and collapse. The HSE denied the allegations.

Despite the failure to acknowledge liability, an offer of €98,000 compensation was made to the couple by the State Claims Agency. The couple accepted the offer under advisement but, due to the nature of the circumstances behind the claim, the settlement had to be approved by a judge.

Consequently a hearing was scheduled to approve the settlement at the High Court. At the hearing, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told there was a dispute surrounding the cause of the child´s death and that the parents of the little girl appreciated their claims would be difficult to prove in a full hearing.

A statement of regret was read to the parents of the child by a representative of the HSE, before Judge Cross approved the settlement of the claim for nervous shock against the HSE. He also extended his sympathy to the parents for their loss.

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Claim for a Facial Scar due to Hospital Negligence Resolved for €240,000

A High Court judge has approved the €240,000 settlement of a five-year-old girl´s claim for a facial scar due to hospital negligence after her birth.

Abigail Byrne was born at the Cork University Maternity Hospital in January 2011 after a difficult delivery during which forceps were used. Following her birth, an elasticated bandage was placed around Abigail´s head and left in situ for thirty hours – leaving a red mark ten centimetres across and one centimetre in depth across her forehead.

At the time, Abigail´s mother – Jennifer Byrne of Whitechurch in County Cork – was told that the mark was temporary and should disappear within a week. However, when a public health nurse visited the mother and child after their discharge from hospital, the nurse told Jennifer that the mark was likely to be permanent and she should seek medical advice.

On finding out that it would not be possible to conceal the mark by plastic surgery until Abigail was in her late teens, Jennifer made a claim for a facial scar due to hospital negligence on her daughter´s behalf. In her legal action against the Health Service Executive (HSE), Jennifer alleged that there had been a failure to position the elasticated bandage correctly and that it had been left on for too long.

Liability for Abigail´s injury was admitted by the HSE, and the claim for a facial scar due to hospital negligence was heard earlier this month by Mr Justice Kevin Cross for the assessment of damages. After being told that Abigail´s parents had delayed her christening for a week to give the mark a chance to fade, Judge Cross adjourned the hearing so that settlement negotiations could take place.

When the hearing resumed earlier this week, the judge was told that a €240,000 settlement of the claim for a facial scar due to hospital negligence had been agreed. Judge Cross approved the settlement, saying it was a reasonable one in the circumstances, and closed the hearing by wishing Abigail all the best for the future.

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Final Settlement Approved in Delayed Birth Medical Negligence Claim

The final €5.56 million settlement of a delayed birth medical negligence claim made on behalf of a sixteen-year-old girl has been approved at the High Court.

Mary Malee was born at the Mayo General Hospital on 11th October 1999 by emergency Caesarean section after a deceleration of the foetal heart rate had been identified. However, due to no consultant being immediately available to assist with the delivery, Mary´s birth was delayed by eighty minutes. During this time, Mary suffered foetal distress and was starved of oxygen. She was born in a poor condition having sustained brain damage and now suffers from cerebral palsy.

Maura Malee from Swinford, County Mayo – Mary´s mother – made a delayed birth medical negligence claim on behalf of her daughter. In her legal action, Maura alleged that the Mayo General Hospital had failed in its duty of care to ensure a consultant was available once the deceleration of the foetal heart rate had been identified. The hospital´s medical negligence – Maura claimed – resulted in the failure to deliver Mary in a timely manner and her subsequent injury.

In early 2014, a €1.5 million interim settlement of the delayed birth medical negligence claim was approved by Ms Justice Mary Irvine. The judge adjourned the case for two years in order to allow time for a system of periodic payments to be introduced. With no system of period payments yet available, and with the family not wanting “ongoing engagement with the HSE and the courts”, Mary and her parents returned to the High Court to hear the approval of the final settlement of the delayed birth medical negligence claim.

At the hearing before Mr Justice Peter Kelly, the court heard a statement read to Mary in which the Mayo General Hospital apologised for “the many challenges that you have faced as a result of the treatment provided to your mother Maura at the time of your birth”. Judge Kelly approved the €5.56 million final settlement of the delayed birth medical negligence claim – describing Mary achievements in attending mainstream school and planning to go to university as “heroic”.

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Settlement of Medical Negligence Claim against the Rotunda Hospital Approved

A judge at the High Court has approved a €3 million interim settlement of a young boy´s medical negligence claim against the Rotunda Hospital.

On 20th February 2004, Mohammad Daud Assad was delivered by emergency C-Section at the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin after a deterioration in his foetal heart rate had been identified. Tragically Mohammad was deprived of oxygen in the womb and needed resuscitating after his birth.

Mohammad now suffers from cerebral palsy, is unable to speak and has both physical and mental disabilities. Although he attends a mainstream school, Mohammad will require full-time support for the rest of his life.

Mohammad´s mother – Alia Muryem Assad from Ballyfermot in Dublin – made a medical negligence claim against the Rotunda Hospital, alleging that there had been a delay in summoning an obstetrician after the deterioration of Mohammad´s heart rate had been identified and, as a result, the C-Section operation was avoidably delayed.

It was also alleged in the medical negligence claim against the Rotunda hospital that the hospital had failed to properly assess Alia on her admission into the hospital and consider the possibility of a placental function failure as she was ten days overdue. Alia arrived at the hospital at 9:00am in the morning, but Mohammad was not born until 10:30pm that evening.

At the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told that liability for Mohammad´s birth injury had only been acknowledged within the last two weeks. He also heard that an amount of €3 million compensation had been agreed as an interim settlement of the medical negligence claim against the Rotunda Hospital.

Judge Cross approved the interim settlement of the claim, commenting that the way in which the extended family had rallied round to help Mohammad´s parents “restored one´s faith in humanity”. The judge then adjourned the medical negligence claim against the Rotunda Hospital for six years, when an assessment of Mohammad´s future requirements will be carried out.

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HSE and SCA at Odds over Medical Negligence Court Cases in Ireland

The Director General of the Health Service Executive (HSE) and the State Claims Agency have fallen out over medical negligence court cases in Ireland.

The disagreement over medical negligence court cases in Ireland blew up last week when Tony O´Brien – the Director General of the HSE – told the Oireachtas health committee that the State Claims Agency had an “unrealistic” view about risk and safety in healthcare and was too eager to defend medical negligence claims for compensation.

Saying that the adversarial framework used by the Agency delayed the payment of medical negligence compensation to plaintiffs who had suffered a loss, an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition deterioration, he asked “why all that trauma for people to get what they need.”

“These cases go on for up to 10 years and the State loses 99 per cent of them,” Mr O´Brien claimed, and he suggested the establishment of a fund that would support a different system of resolving claims for compensation that would not involve the parents of children that had suffered catastrophic birth injuries having to endure medical negligence court cases in Ireland.

While acknowledging that there had to be a level of accountability, Mr O´Brien also claimed that medical negligence court cases in Ireland were also damaging to the healthcare professionals called to give evidence in them. He said that, although the healthcare professionals were not facing criminal prosecution, they had to endure “show trials” when the outcome of the trials was 99 percent likely to be in the plaintiff´s favour.

In response to Mr O´Brien´s testimony to the Oireachtas health committee, the State Claims Agency issued a statement on Thursday evening contesting some of the Director General´s claims. The statement claims that 97 percent of cases are resolved without medical negligence court cases in Ireland and, in those in which liability is contested, the cases are resolved in the Agency´s favour 75 percent of the time.

Just two months ago the State Claims Agency published a review of maternity and gynaecology services in Ireland. In the review it was revealed that the total expenditure on cerebral palsy compensation claims had increased by 77 percent from 2010 to 2014. The large increase in compensation payments was partly attributed to more birth injury compensation claims being resolved with lump sum payments rather than interim compensation payments due to the failure of the Oireachtas to introduce a system of periodic payments.

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Claim for the Death of a Child due to Medical Misadventure Heard in Court

The €70,000 settlement of a compensation claim for the death of a child due to medical misadventure has been approved at the High Court.

On 20th November 2012, Fiona Watters attended the Cavan General Hospital in the later stages of her first pregnancy. Fiona was admitted to the hospital and, at 10:30am on the morning of 22nd November, her waters broke. Under the care of consultant obstetrician Dr Salah Aziz, Fiona was administered Prostiglandin to accelerate her labour.

The dosage of Prostiglandin was increased throughout the day and, at 9:30pm that evening, a natural birth was attempted. Despite pushing for an hour the baby´s head was still not visible and the duty midwife called Dr Aziz to advise him the indications were that the infant was suffering foetal distress.

Dr Aziz attempted to organize a C-section delivery, but discovered that the only out-of-hours theatre at the hospital was occupied. A forceps delivery and a vacuum delivery were both attempted unsuccessfully, and Fiona had to wait until the out-of-hours theatre became available in order to deliver her son.

When Jamie was born, he was in a very poor condition. He was resuscitated and transferred to the special care baby unit at the Rotunda Hospital. Tragically Jamie died in his mother´s arms two days later.

An investigation was launched into the cause of baby Jamie´s death, but the report subsequent to the investigation was quashed by the High Court in August 2013 following Dr Aziz´s assertions that investigators from the Health Service Executive had not conducted the investigation according to the correct procedures.

Having received an advanced copy of the report, Fiona and her partner – Francis Flynn – sought legal advice and made a compensation claim for the death of a child due to medical misadventure. The Health Service Executive failed to accept liability for Jamie´s death until July 2014, and subsequently commissioned a second investigation into his death.

In December 2014, an inquest into Jamie´s death confirmed that he had died due to medical misadventure. The coroner attributed the increase in the administration of Prostiglandin, Dr Aziz´s failure to inform the hospital registrar that the drug had been administered, and the lack of a second out-of-hours theatre at the hospital being causative events.

Following the coroner´s verdict, the solicitor representing Fiona and Francis negotiated a settlement of the compensation claim for the death of a child due to medical misadventure with the State Claims Agency. Due to the traumatic circumstances of Jamie´s birth and the protracted nature of the investigations into Jamie´s death, the settlement amounted to €70,000.

As the settlement of the claim for the death of a child due to medical misadventure had to be approved by a judge before the case could be closed, the circumstances of Jamie´s birth and the subsequent delays experienced by the family were related to Mr Justice Richard Humphreys at the High Court. Judge Humphreys approved the settlement, stipulating that €5,000 should be paid into court funds for the benefit of Fiona and Francis´ daughter when she becomes a legal adult.

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HSE Apology for Medical Misadventure Six Years Too Late for Parents

An HSE apology for medical misadventure has been rejected by the parents of a girl who died shortly after her birth because it is “six years too late”.

On 11th February 2009, Joan Mulcair from Corbally in County Limerick gave birth to a baby girl at the Midland Regional Hospital. Joan and her husband John had tried for many years to conceive a child and, despite a painful labour, the couple were overjoyed when baby Caoimhe was born.

However, joy quickly turned to sorrow. It was noticed that baby Caoimhe was not crying as new born babies should. She was rushed to the hospital´s special care unit but died in her mother´s arms thirty-nine minutes after being born.

At last week´s inquest into Caoimhe´s death, the jury heard that a deceleration of the foetal heartbeat had been recorded during Joan´s labour, and death was due to a lack of blood and oxygen supply to the brain. The jury returned a verdict of death by medical misadventure.

During the hearing, Joan and John were read an apology by Collette Cowan, the chief executive of the Midland Regional Hospital. Ms Cowan apologised for the mistakes that had been made prior to and during Caoimhe´s delivery and said that lessons had been learned by the hospital.

However, Caoimhe´s parents rejected the HSE apology for medical adventure, saying that it had come “six years too late”. Speaking after the inquest, John said that it was a disgrace that the HSE had put “an ordinary decent family through the pain and torment we had to endure for over six years”.

John explained to reporters that there had been no HSE apology for medical misadventure during the time that the family had been battling the HSE for compensation. Liability for Caoimhe´s death was admitted last December, and a settlement of the family´s claim was negotiated.

In response to the rejection, a spokesperson for the Health Service Executive said it had no control over the handling of medical negligence claims. He said these were handled by the State Claims Agency. The passing of the buck from the HSE to the SCA was described as a “shabby episode” by a columnist in the Irish Times, who wrote:

“A common interest links the HSE and the claims agency and there has been a persistent pattern of denial, prevarication and years of unnecessary delay in dealing with medical claims. The public and aggrieved patients deserve better. So do the vast majority of medical professionals.”

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