All Posts Tagged: Claims for medical Incompetency

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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Court Approves Interim Settlement of Chicken Pox Misdiagnosis Compensation

The High Court has approved a €2.5 million interim settlement of chicken pox misdiagnosis compensation in favour of a young boy who suffered a brain injury.

Eoghan Keating from Upper Dunhill in County Waterford was soon to be celebrating his second birthday, when his parents took him to the A&E Department of Waterford Regional Hospital on August 24, 2012, suffering from a high fever and having developed a rash on his abdomen. Eoghan was misdiagnosed as having mumps and was sent home after being treated with ibuprofen and Carpol.

The little boy´s condition deteriorated during the night. He became lethargic and a swelling developed in his neck. His concerned parents – Larry and Martina – called the caredoc GP service, who advised that Eoghan be taken back to the hospital as soon as possible. On his return to the Waterford Regional Hospital, Eoghan was correctly diagnosed as having a chicken pox infection.

Eoghan was intubated and ventilated before being transferred to the Children´s Hospital in Dublin, but the correct diagnosis had come too late to prevent him from suffering a serious brain injury. Now six year of age, Eoghan is tetraplegic and cannot talk.

On her son´s behalf, Martina Keating made a claim for chicken pox misdiagnosis compensation against the Health Service Executive (HSE), alleging that there had been a failure by medical staff at the Waterford Regional Hospital to admit her son or identify the indications of a significant infection. Liability for the medical negligence that resulted in Eoghan´s condition was acknowledged by the HSE and a €2.5 million interim settlement of chicken pox misdiagnosis compensation was agreed.

As the claim for chicken pox misdiagnosis compensation had been made on behalf of a child, the interim settlement had to be approved by a judge. Consequently the sequence of events leading up to Eoghan´s brain injury and the consequences of his injury were related to Mr Justice Kevin Cross at the High Court. At the hearing, the family was also read an apology by the General Manager of Waterford Regional Hospital – Richard Dooley – for the “deficiencies in care provided to Eoghan”.

After commenting that the Keatings´ “suffering cannot be described or defined”, Judge Cross approved the interim settlement of chicken pox misdiagnosis compensation and adjourned the case for two years to allow for an assessment of Eoghan´s future needs. In two years´ time, the family will return to court for the approval of a second interim compensation settlement unless a system of periodic payments has been introduced in the intervening period.

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Judge Approves Interim Settlement of Compensation for Injuries due to a Mismanaged Birth

A High Court judge has approved a €1.75 million interim settlement of compensation for injuries due to a mismanaged birth in favour of a two-year-old boy.

The claim for compensation for injuries due to a mismanaged birth was brought on behalf of Charlie Enright, whose mother Catriona was admitted to the Midwestern Regional Maternity Hospital in Limerick on 19th August 2013 when she was thirty-seven weeks pregnant.

The decision was made to induce labour and Catriona was administered Syntocinon. However, the labour-accelerating drug caused Charlie to suffer hyper-stimulation in the womb and his foetal distress was not recognised until after he had sustained an intra-cranial haemorrhage.

Charlie was born the following unable to breathe independently and was transferred to Cork University Hospital for therapeutic hypothermia treatment. Unfortunately the brain damage had already occurred and Charlie is now permanently disabled.

After seeking legal advice, Catriona claimed compensation for injuries due to a mismanaged birth on behalf of her son. The Health Service Executive (HSE) conducted an investigation into the circumstances surrounding Charlie´s birth and admitted liability for his injuries.

A €1.75 million interim settlement of compensation for injuries due to a mismanaged birth was agreed to pay for Charlie´s care and medical costs for the next two years; but, as the compensation claim had been made on behalf of a child, the interim settlement had to be approved by a judge to ensure it was in Charlie´s best interests.

The approval hearing was held earlier this week at the High Court, where Mr Justice Anthony Barr was given details of the lack of care that led to Charlie´s birth injuries. Judge Barr approved the interim settlement of compensation for injuries due to a mismanaged birth and adjourned the hearing for two years.

In two years´ time, the likelihood is that Charlie and is mother will have to attend court for the approval of another interim settlement of compensation for injuries due to a mismanaged birth, unless a system of periodic payments is introduced that will ensure Charlie´s care for the rest of his life.

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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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Compensation for a Patient in a Coma Approved at the High Court

A €550,000 interim settlement of compensation for a patient in a coma due to alleged medical negligence has been approved at a hearing of the High Court.

In October 2011, seventy-one year old Robert Bolton – a former funeral director and talented musician – underwent surgery at St James Hospital in Dublin. The surgery on Robert´s oesophagus was initially considered successful. However, the following morning James suffered a heart attack due to a respiratory failure caused by sepsis.

Robert was moved to the intensive care unit of the hospital, where his condition deteriorated and he suffered a hypoxic ischaemic brain injury. He has been in a coma ever since – oblivious to the presence of his family and unable to communicate. Robert now relies of twenty-four hour specialist care to provide his basic needs.

Robert´s wife – Angela – engaged a solicitor to investigate the standard of care Robert had received after his surgery and throughout his stay in the intensive care unit. She subsequently claimed compensation for a patient in a coma on her husband´s behalf, alleging that the hospital had failed to diagnose Robert´s sepsis or identify that he was suffering from organ failure as a result.

The hospital contested the claim, but acknowledged that there had been failings in the standard of care. A €550,000 interim settlement of compensation for a patient in a coma was negotiated to ensure that Robert receives the care he needs for the next two years – after which a final settlement of the claim will be determined.

As the claim for compensation for a patient in a coma had been made on behalf of a plaintiff unable to represent themselves, the case went to the High Court for an approval hearing before Mr Justice Kevin Cross. Judge Cross was told the circumstances of Robert´s heart attack, its probable cause, and the consequences of his condition to his wife and family.

After Angela told Judge Cross the family was happy that Robert´s care would be provided for, the judge approved the interim settlement of compensation for a patient in a coma – commenting that the interim settlement was clearly the result of hard bargaining. The judge then closed the approval hearing, wishing Angela and her family all the best for the future.

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Unsuccessful Challenge to High Court Award of Cerebral Palsy Compensation by HSE

An unsuccessful challenge to a High Court award of cerebral palsy compensation is likely to be taken to the Supreme Court by the Health Service Executive.

Gill Russell from Aghada in County Cork was born at the Erinville Hospital on 12th July 2006, suffering from dyskinetic cerebral palsy after a “prolonged and totally chaotic” delivery. Gill´s mother – Karen – made a compensation claim against the Health Service Executive (HSE) for medical negligence, and received an interim High Court award of cerebral palsy compensation in 2012.

In December 2014, Gill´s compensation claim against the HSE was settled with a lump sum High Court award of cerebral palsy compensation amounting to €13.5 million. The HSE appealed the value of the High Court award of cerebral palsy compensation – arguing that Mr Justice Kevin Cross had used a lower rate of interest than was traditionally used in Irish courts to calculate the future value of the settlement.

At the Appeals Court this week, a three-judge panel upheld Judge Cross´ settlement. The judges said that using the “traditional” formula would mean that a catastrophically injured person would have to take “unjust and unacceptable” risks with investing the lump sum to ensure their financial security. They added that a seriously injured child should not be compared with a prudent investor.

Announcing the Appeals Court verdict, Ms Justice Mary Irvine said it was not the courts´ function to inquire what a claimant was likely to do with their award for the purposes of determining its value. She added that the Russell family and the HSE would not be in court had the government not gone back on promises to introduce legislation that would allow for a periodic payment system of compensation.

Unfortunately, the decision of the Appeals Court is unlikely to end the dispute about the High Court award of cerebral palsy compensation. Warning that the revised formula sets a dangerous precedent that could cost the State Claims Agency and the insurance industry up to €100 million annually, the HSE has indicated that it will take the High Court award of cerebral palsy compensation to the Supreme Court.

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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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Court Approves €9 Million Settlement of Compensation for Tetraplegic Birth Injuries

The High Court has approved a settlement of compensation for tetraplegic birth injuries in favour of a 10-year-old girl after 18 days of negotiations.

In April 2005, Alex Butler was born at the Waterford Regional Hospital by Caesarean Section after suffering foetal distress in the womb. Due to errors by the locum who was covering for her mother´s consultant obstetrician, Alex´s birth was avoidably delayed by ten minutes and Alex was delivered “blue and lifeless”.

Alex was resuscitated but, due to being deprived of oxygen, she suffered severe brain damage and is now tetraplegic. Despite being described as having a “bright personality with a huge intelligence”, Alex is mostly confined to a wheelchair and will require constant care throughout the rest of her life.

On Alex´s behalf, her mother Sonya claimed compensation for tetraplegic birth injuries against the Health Service Executive – who acknowledged liability in 2013. The family received an interim compensation payment of €1.4 million, and the case was adjourned for two years to allow for the introduction of a structured compensation payment system.

As legislation has not yet been passed for a structured compensation payment system, the claim for compensation for tetraplegic birth injuries was heard again recently by Mr Justice Anthony Barr at the High Court.

The hearing started with an apology read to Alex and her parents by a representative of Waterford Regional Hospital, but thereafter deteriorated into a dispute over how much compensation for tetraplegic birth injuries Alex should be entitled to.

The hearing continued for eighteen days until an agreement was reached. Approving the €9 million settlement of compensation for tetraplegic birth injuries, Mr Justice Anthony Barr said the settlement was reasonable and sensible – but, outside of court, Alex´s mother said that she was shocked that negotiations had taken so long.

Sonya Butler described the State Claims Agency´s approach to negotiations as “disgusting” and told reporters “They fought tooth and nail. They basically want Alex to have an existence, not a life. They want her to scrape by with the bare minimum rather than her having the life that she should have had.”

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