All Posts Tagged: Claims for Clinical Negligence

Claim for the Negligent Management of Anaesthetic Resolved at High Court

A claim for the negligent management of anaesthetic, due to which a former barrister sustained an acquired brain injury, has been resolved at the High Court.

In 2014, the 46-year-old former barrister and father of two attended the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry, Dublin, complaining of ongoing back pain. He underwent a routine cervical spine procedure; but, due to a failure to adequately manage his anaesthetic, the former barrister did not receive enough oxygen during the procedure. As a result, he suffered a hypoxic brain injury.

Due to his acquired brain injury, the former barrister now requires twenty-four hour care. Although he can react to the presence of his family, he is unable to communicate when he is in pain or needs help. Friends and colleagues set up a trust fund in order that he could be cared for in a care home, but his family hope it will be ultimately possible to provide full-time care for him in the family home in Clonee, County Meath.

A claim for the negligent management of anaesthetic was made against anaesthetist Deirdre Lohan by the former barrister´s wife on his behalf. Negligence was admitted by the anaesthetist and a settlement of compensation amounting to €7.1 million was agreed. As the claim for the negligent management of anaesthetic was made on behalf of a claimant unable to represent themselves, the settlement of the claim had to be approved by a judge to ensure it was in the claimant´s best interests.

Consequently, at the High Court this week, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told the circumstances of the claimant´s injury and the consequences it had for him and his family. After hearing that the litigation process had been distressing for the family, and that they were willing to accept the offer of settlement to get the matter “done and dusted”, Judge Cross approved the settlement of the claim for the negligent management of anaesthetic – conveying his sympathy to the family for the terrible tragedy they had suffered.

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Minister Plans to Enforce Medical Negligence Open Disclosure Policy

Health Minister Simon Harris has announced that he is to push forward with legislation to enforce a medical negligence open disclosure policy.

The Health Minister´s intentions to push forward with legislation to enforce a medical negligence open disclosure policy were revealed in an address to delegates at the State Claims Agency´s first annual “Quality, Patient Safety & Clinical Risk Conference” at Dublin Castle on Monday.

Mr Harris said that the establishment of a new National Patient Safety Office would “lead a program of significant patient safety measures” that included a review of how adverse medical events are disclosed to patients and their families and the process for claiming medical negligence compensation.

The National Patient Safety Office will be led by a team of experts under the auspices of the Department of Justice and Equality. Its roles include:

  • Setting up a national patient advocacy service.
  • Introducing a patient safety surveillance system.
  • Establishing a national advisory council for patient safety.

The National Patient Safety Office will also be responsible for accelerating the progress of the Health Information and Patient Safety Bill – although enactment of the bill may not be possible until the EU has concluded its work on revised European-wide data protection standards.

This is because the Health Information and Patient Safety Bill contains measures to protect patients´ private healthcare information while aiming to create a national network of healthcare data to improve the provision and management of healthcare services throughout Ireland.

The news that the Health Minister at least intends to enforce a medical negligence open disclosure policy will be welcomed by legal figures and patient safety experts who have campaigned for many years for a legal duty of candour to be introduced.

Some have claimed that the HSE´s 2013 national guidelines for open disclosure have been widely ignored since their publication, and that former Health Minister Leo Varadkar missed an opportunity to enforce a medical negligence open disclosure policy in the Civil Liberty (Amendment) Bill 2015.

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Judge Approves Compensation for an Adverse Reaction to Antisepsis

A judge has approved a settlement of compensation for an adverse reaction to antisepsis in favour of a child who suffered permanent scarring to her back.

On 19th October 2012, Ann Ryan gave birth to a daughter at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin just twenty-five weeks into her pregnancy. Weighing just 840 grams, baby Sophia was transferred to the Special Care Unit, where various catheters were inserted to administer drugs and help with her feeding.

To prevent skin sepsis, the areas where the catheters were inserted were cleaned with chlorhexidine, rather than povidone-iodine, as part of the National Children´s Research Centre´s “SKA trial”. Ann had previously agreed for Sophia to participate in this trial on the grounds that her child would not experience any discomfort or side effects.

However, the following morning, hospital staff noticed a large area of redness and a small area of ulceration on Sophia´s back. The redness was diagnosed as being an adverse reaction to the chlorhexidine and, because Sophia was displaying signs of distress, was administered morphine intravenously.

Two days after her birth, Sophia was administered Fucidim – a cream used to prevent bacterial skin infections – but this resulted in Sophia suffering a deep dermal skin burn. The Fucidim treatment was discontinued the following day and an alternate cream administered – Duoderm. However, by then, the damage had been done, and – in May 2014 – the hospital´s consultant paediatric dermatologist diagnosed Sophia with a scar consistent with a chemical burn.

Through her father – Tom Ryan of Rathdrum in County Wicklow – Sophia claimed compensation for an adverse reaction to antisepsis, alleging that the National Maternity Hospital had been negligent in her treatment, that due to the hospital´s negligence the affected skin will be permanently discoloured and that she will likely require a skin graft in the future.

Although liability was not admitted, the hospital offered to settle the claim for €100,000. As the claim for compensation for an adverse reaction to antisepsis had been made on behalf of a child, the proposed settlement first had to be approved by a judge. Consequently, at the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Richard Humphries was told the details of Sophia´s treatment after her premature birth.

After hearing that Sophia spent 135 days in hospital after her birth, but has suffered no developmental delays due to her experience, the judge approved the settlement of compensation for an adverse reaction to antisepsis plus costs. The settlement will now be paid into court funds until Sophia reaches the age of eighteen.

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Compensation for the Failure to Administer Antibiotics Approved at Court

An interim settlement of €2.4 million compensation for the failure to administer antibiotics has been approved in favour of a five-year-old brain damaged boy.

Eoghan Dunne from Tullamore in County Offaly was just eleven months old when, on 3rd August 2012, he was admitted to Portiuncula Hospital in Ballinasloe suffering from a fever, breathlessness and lethargy.

Due to his high heart rate and “severe respiratory distress”, Eoghan was transferred to the Temple Street Children´s Hospital in Dublin. He subsequently suffered septic shock and a cardiac arrest. During the cardiac arrest, Eoghan´s brain was starved of oxygen and suffered major neurological damage.

Now five years of age, Eoghan suffers from epilepsy, cannot walk or talk and is visually impaired. He will need twenty-four hour care for the rest of his life.

Following a review of his treatment, Eoghan´s parents claimed compensation for the failure to administer antibiotics when their son was first admitted to the Portiuncula Hospital. It was alleged that, had Eoghan been given antibiotics at the time, the septic shock would not have occurred.

The Portiuncula Hospital and the Health Service Executive denied liability for Eoghan´s injury until earlier this week. An interim settlement of compensation for the failure to administer antibiotics was agreed, and presented to Mr Justice Kevin Cross at the High Court for approval.

At the approval hearing, Judge Cross was told that the hospital was ill-prepared for Eoghan´s admission – despite being forewarned by the family´s GP – and had ignored HSE guidelines for the treatment of sepsis. The court also heard how it there had been “difficulty identifying competent staff to transfer him”.

Judge Cross approved the interim settlement of compensation for the failure to administer antibiotics, commenting that it would be helpful if the HSE admitted liability in such cases so that families such as the Dunne´s did not have to resort to litigation in order to get justice.

Outside the court, Eoghan´s father – Ronan Dunne – echoed Judge Cross´ words when he told reporters Eoghan had lost out on possible therapy and treatment for his injuries at “a vital developmental stage” because of the HSE´s reluctance to admit liability in the case.

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Claim for an Avoidable Deterioration of Hearing Settlement Approved

A child´s claim for an avoidable deterioration of hearing against the HSE has been resolved with the approval of a €340,000 compensation settlement.

In April 2006, when Clodagh Enright was four years of age, her mother – Eileen – noticed that she was having speech difficulties. She contacted the local health nurse responsible for speech and language, who referred Clodagh to the audiology department of her local hospital to have her hearing checked.

The initial hearing test came back all clear; but, still worried about her daughter´s speech, Eileen Enright persisted with her concerns. A second hearing test was arranged in May 2007, that detected Clodagh had a significant hearing impediment.

Clodagh underwent a cochlear implant and had hearing aids fitted to help resolve the problem. However her parents claimed that, had the problem been identified in the first examination, Clodagh´s hearing impediment would not have deteriorated to such an extent, and she would not have lost ground in her education.

Through her mother, Clodagh made a claim for an avoidable deterioration of hearing against the Health Service Executive (HSE). An admission of liability was made by the HSE and a settlement of the claim negotiated amounting to €340,000.

As the claim for an avoidable deterioration of hearing had been made on behalf of a child, the proposed settlement had to be approved by a judge before the claim could be resolved in order to ensure it was in Clodagh´s best interests.

Consequently, at the High Court in Cork, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told the circumstances of Clodagh´s injury and the progress she had made in the intervening years. The judge approved the settlement, saying it was a good one in the circumstances, and ordered that it be paid into court funds until Clodagh reaches the age of eighteen in four years.

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Compensation for Hepatitis C due to Infected Blood Increased by Judge

An award of compensation for Hepatitis C due to infected blood has been increased after an appeal against a decision of the Hepatitis Compensation Tribunal.

In 1977, the unnamed plaintiff was one of thousands of women in Ireland who were given an anti-D immunoglobulin blood transfusion carrying the Hepatitis C virus. Twenty years later she was awarded an interim settlement of €298,000 compensation for Hepatitis C due to infected blood by the Hepatitis Compensation Tribunal.

Two years ago, the plaintiff underwent ribavirin treatment when test results indicated the development of cirrhosis. Unfortunately, the treatment resulted in the side-effects of decompensated cirrhosis and encephalopathy – a brain injury that manifests as slurred speech and forgetfulness. Both the decompensated cirrhosis and encephalopathy are irreversible.

Consequently, the plaintiff appealed to the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal for a further settlement of compensation for Hepatitis C due to infected blood. The Tribunal awarded her €180,000; but, as a similar case had settled for €250,000, the plaintiff appealed the award of compensation – claiming there was no reason that she should receive €70,000 less.

The Minister for Health opposed the appeal on the grounds that the plaintiff´s case was different to the one in which the higher award was made and that the plaintiff had received treatment for Hepatitis C before her condition was diagnosed. Consequently the plaintiff took the appeal to the High Court where it was heard by Mr Justice Bernard Barton.

At the hearing, Judge Barton was told that the plaintiff´s decompensated cirrhosis and encephalopathy conditions had been triggered by the ribavirin therapy she had undergone. The judge also heard that the encephalopathy in particular had caused the plaintiff great mental anguish because the condition frightened her grandchildren, who are a very important part of her life.

Judge Barton found in the woman´s favour – saying that the High Court had the jurisdiction to compensate her for the pain and suffering arising from the treatment she underwent in 2013. The judge said that it was “only fair and reasonable” that her settlement of compensation for Hepatitis C due to infected blood be increased to €250,000.

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Medical Injuries Alliance calls for Duty of Candour Legislation

The Medical Injuries Alliance has called for “Duty of Candour” legislation to eliminate unacceptable delays in the admission of medical negligence.

The Medical Injuries Alliance is an independent organisation that advocates on behalf of victims of medical negligence in Ireland. Among the organisation´s objectives are access to justice for all victims of medical negligence, appropriate compensation for injuries caused by medical negligence, and proper accountability when medical negligence has occurred.

Key to the Alliance achieving these objectives is candour among medical professionals and hospitals in revealing that a medical accident has occurred and disclosing why it has occurred. However, the Alliance claims that it is difficult to secure co-operation from medical professionals and Irish hospitals because of a “culture of fear” within the Health Service.

On the organization´s website, the Alliance has already called for duty of candour legislation – stating that “The duty of candour in hospitals and doctors should be placed on a statutory footing, entitling injured patients to an accurate account of how they came to suffer medical injury in Irish hospitals”, and that call has now been repeated in a letter to the Irish Times.

The letter – written by the Secretary of the Medical Injuries Alliance, Joice McCarthy – was in response to an article that appeared in last week´s Irish Times – commenting on the nine years it took for the Health Service Executive to acknowledge liability in a medical negligence compensation claim. The article concluded by saying that duty of candour legislation was introduced in the UK last year, and that similar laws are clearly needed in Ireland.

In her letter, Ms McCarthy agrees with the sentiments of the article, and suggests that many victims of medical negligence are forced to take legal action to find the answers to their questions. Ms McCarthy commented that patients who have been through the legal process describe it as a stressful and protracted experience.

Ms McCarthy alluded to the recent “shabby” public disagreement between the HSE and State Claims Agency about who was responsible for the length of time it took to resolve medical negligence claims, when she concluded her letter:

“Instead of blaming any particular State organisation, or indeed having different State organisations blame one another for the current difficulties, it is high time politicians simply acted to introduce a legal duty of candour in order to fix what seems to be a glaringly obvious problem”.

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Settlement of Claim for Hospital Negligence at Sligo General Approved at Court

The settlement of a compensation claim for hospital negligence at Sligo General has been approved at the High Court in favour of a man brain damaged at birth.

On September 6th 1996, Thomas O´Connor was delivered at the Sligo General Hospital showing no signs of life due to being starved of oxygen in the womb. He was resuscitated and taken to the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital, but suffered a heart attack on his way from the delivery theatre allegedly due to being incorrectly ventilated.

According to his mother, Ann O´Connor of Collooney in County Sligo, hospital negligence was responsible for both her son´s birth being avoidably delayed and the heart attack which contributed to the brain damage suffered by Thomas – who, since the age of twelve has lived in a residential home close to his family.

Due to his birth injuries, Thomas is spastic quadriplegic, blind and fed through a tube; and through his mother he made a compensation claim for hospital negligence at Sligo General. The Health Service Executive denied liability for Thomas´ injuries, and contested the compensation claim for hospital negligence at Sligo General.

Consequently, the claim for hospital negligence at Sligo General was heard by Mr Justice Kevin Cross at the High Court. Judge Cross was told by expert witnesses that a CTG trace had been discontinued in the morning of Thomas´ birth despite there being clear evidence of foetal distress. This, it was claimed, delayed Thomas´ birth by up to four hours.

The judge also heard that the ventilation tube used to ventilate Thomas had been inserted at a depth of 14cms into Thomas´ lungs, instead of the usual 9cms to 10cms. The consequence of this alleged error was that Thomas was not ventilated effectively, due to which he suffered the heart attack and sustained further brain damage until he was again resuscitated.

Despite not admitting to hospital negligence at Sligo General, the Health Service Executive agreed to a €1.75 million settlement of compensation that will pay for Thomas´ continued care at the residential home in Collooney. The judge approved the settlement, saying he was delighted that the O´Connor´s legal ordeal had come to an end.

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Compensation Claims for Radiologist Negligence Likely after Review of X-Rays

There could be a considerable number of compensation claims for radiologist negligence following an HSE-ordered review of thousands of x-rays and scans.

The review of x-rays and other scans was ordered by the Health Service Executive (HSE) following concerns being raised by medical professionals about the standards of three locum radiologists. The radiologists have not been named, but their errors could have affected patients in as many as seven different hospitals.

The three locum radiologists are known to have worked at Kerry General Hospital, Cavan Monaghan Hospital and Bantry General Hospital. The locum employed by the HSE at Bantry General Hospital went on to work in Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda, Connolly Hospital in Blanchardstown, Wexford General Hospital and Roscommon Hospital.

At Kerry Hospital, six patients had to be recalled due to mistakes made by one of the radiologists during one month in May 2013, while at Cavan Monaghan Hospital sixty-two patients had to be recalled following the review of 2,980 x-rays and scans. The HSE has said that no patient has suffered an “adverse effect” due to the negligence of the radiologists at either of these hospitals; but at Bantry General Hospital it was a different story.

More than 4,000 x-rays and scans had to be reviewed at Bantry General Hospital, and whereas “most” patients suffered no adverse effect, one patient is known to have had a delayed cancer diagnosis. Hospital managers at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital Drogheda and Connolly Hospital are still conducting preliminary audits of the same radiologist´s work, while no patient safety concerns were identified during a review at Wexford General and Roscommon Hospitals.

During the review at Cavan Monaghan Hospital, it was revealed that the radiologist responsible for the recall of sixty-two patients was not on the Medical Council´s specialist register and should not even have been assessing scans. All three locum radiologists have now left Ireland – one is believed to be working in the UK and another in Australia – and have been reported to the Medical Council.

The HSE has been widely criticized by the medical profession for creating the situation in which competent radiologists are no longer entering the profession; and in addition to the cost of conducting the wide-ranging and time-consuming review, the authority will also have to settle any compensation claims for radiologist negligence made by patients who have suffered an adverse effect due to a missed or late diagnosis.

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Claim for Compensation for Deltacortril Side Effects Allowed to Proceed

A Cork woman´s claim for compensation for Deltacortril side effects has been allowed to proceed after a hearing at the High Court

Lorna Savage (43) from Cobh in County Cork was given permission to proceed with her claim for compensation for Deltacortril side effects after a motion to dismiss her case brought by one of the defendants was denied at the High Court.

Lorna had first been prescribed the steroid Deltacortril in 1997 to treat the skin condition vasculitis – a disorder which damages blood vessels and causes them to cluster together to form an unsightly and irritable rash on the surface of the skin.

After taking Deltacortril for several years, Lorna´s developed Avascular Necrosis – an uncommon but known side effect of Deltacortril – a disorder which stops blood reaching the bones of the knee and hip joints with the resulting effect that the bone tissue dies and the bone ultimately collapses.

By the time Lorna was thirty one years old, she had both knees and one hip replaced, and the Avascular Necrosis disorder had spread to such an extent that she was reliant on a wheelchair for her mobility and was permanently on morphine to control the pain.

After seeking legal advice, Lorna made a claim for compensation for Deltacortril side effects against the two doctors who had prescribed the steroid tablets for her – her GP, Dr. Michael Madigan, and Dr. M Molloy -her consultant doctor at the Cork University Hospital.

In her claim against Dr. Madigan, Lorna alleged that her GP had not investigated her skin condition fully and had negligently prescribed Deltacortril when he was (or should have been) aware of the possible side effects.  In her action against Dr. Molloy, Lorna alleged the consultant had failed to identify the symptoms of Avascular Necrosis and continued to prescribe the steroids.

Lorna also made a claim for compensation for Deltacortril side effects compensation against the manufacturer of the steroids – the pharmaceutical company Pfizer – alleging that the company had failed to include a warning in the literature accompanying the steroids that their continued use could cause Avascular Necrosis, and by neglecting to advise against drinking alcohol while taking the tablets.

The estate of Lorna´s GP (Dr. Madigan died in 1999), the HSE (of behalf of the Cork University Hospital where Dr. Molloy worked) and Pfizer denied that they had been negligent; and Pfizer applied to have Lorna´s claim for compensation for Deltacortril side effects dismissed on the grounds of “an inordinate and inexcusable delay” in bringing the case to court.

Mr Justice George Birmingham ruled that the delay was “excusable” after hearing that the delay in bringing the case to court was due to Lorna being unable to instruct her solicitors as she had recently undergone several major operations. The judge refused Pfizer´s application to dismiss the case – stating that Lorna´s claim for compensation for Deltacortril side effects would be listed for a full court hearing later in the year.

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