High Court Approves Surgical Negligence Settlement

The High Court of Dublin has approved a €7.1 million settlement of compensation for a man who was left severely paralysed after he was deprived of oxygen during a surgery.

The patient in question, who has remained anonymous throughout proceedings though is known to be forty-six years old and an ex-barrister, attended the Sports Surgery Clinic in Santry, Dublin, with pains in his back. The patient then elected to have voluntary surgery in the hope of relieving the pain. This surgery was carried out in 2014, and though the spinal surgery was considered a success, it transpired that the patient had been deprived of oxygen during the procedure.

During the surgery, the patient’s anaesthetic was not adequately administered and as a result his brain was deprived of oxygen. Since then, he has been reliant on round-the-clock care in a residential care home. He is able to respond to some external stimuli, such as the presence of his children, though has very limited communication otherwise. His family hope that, in the future, he will be able to return to live with them in Clonee, Co. Meath.

The patient’s wife made a claim for medical negligence compensation on his behalf against Deirdre Lohan, the anaesthetist who acted negligently during the procedure. Though Lohan initially contested any allegations of liability, the parties eventually negotiated a compensation settlement of €7.1 million. As it was made on behalf of a claimant unable to represent themselves in court, before the settlement could be paid it first needed to be approved by a judge in the High Court.

Earlier this month, Mr Justice Kevin Cross oversaw proceedings at the approval hearing. After hearing that the costs of the patient’s care were being supported by a trust fund established by his friends and former colleagues, Judge Cross heard that the patient’s wife was happy to accept the settlement, as she wanted the distress of the legal proceedings behind her.

Judge Cross approved the seven-figure settlement for medical negligence and offered his own sympathies towards the family.

Bereaved Couple Criticise HSE Apology

A couple, who were recently read an apology by the HSE expressing regret for the death of their newborn, have publicly criticised the organisation for the six-year delay in apologising.

Caoimhe Mulcair was born at the Midland Regional Hospital on the 11th February 2009 to Joan and John Mulcair, a couple from Corbally, Limerick. Caoimhe was eagerly anticipated by her parents, who had been trying for a child for many years before her birth. However, just thirty-nine minutes after her delivery, Caoimhe tragically died in her mother’s arms.

Earlier this month, an inquest was held concerning  the circumstances of Caoimhe’s death. There, medical experts gave evidence that she had suffered a lack of oxygen to her brain in utero and that, during her mother’s labour, it was noted that the foetus’ heartbeat was slowing.

Following established recommendations, the jury at the inquest ruled that Caoimhe’s death was due to medical misadventure. Before this ruling, however, Joan and John were read a statement by Collette Cowan, the Chief Executive of the Midland Regional Hospital, which apologised for baby Caoimhe’s death.

Yet Joan and John publicly refused to accept the apology, claiming that it had been delivered six years too late. After the conclusion of the inquest, John expressed his disgust that the HSE had put “an ordinary decent family through the pain and torment we had to endure for over six years”.

John went on the comment that, for years after his daughter’s death, the HSE refused to accept any responsibility for her death until last December, where they finally conceded liability and settled the family’s claim for bereavement compensation.

However, the HSE reported that it did not have control over medical negligence cases, and that the State Claims Agency handled cases such as that of the Mulcair’s. This comment, too, was criticised by a columnist for the Irish Times, who wrote that “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.”

Man Compensated for Heart Attack Brought on by Medical Negligence

An interim settlement of medical negligence compensation has been approved by a High Court judge for man who suffered a heart attack.

Martin Byrne, aged fifty-two from Swords in Co. Dublin, was admitted to the Mater University Hospital in December 2010 for surgery on his heart meant to treat an unstable angina. The operation was initially deemed successful, though just five days later Martin was bleeding internally, triggered by the removal of pacing wires. Martin then suffered his heart attack.

As a result of the heart attack, Martin’s heart stopped for fifteen minutes. During this time, his brain was starved of oxygen, leading to devastating brain damage. Martin slipped into a coma, and didn’t reawaken for nearly a year. Now, he is reliant on Una, his wife, for round-the-clock care and assistance.

Acting on her husband’s behalf, Una made a claim for medical negligence compensation resulting in a  heart attack. In the claim, it was alleged that the junior staff – because of their relative inexperience –  had incorrectly removed the pacing wires and as such caused Martin’s internal bleeding. However, it was not until December 2014 that the Mater University Hospital accepted that they were liable for Martin’s condition.

The case then proceeded to the High Court of Dublin, where Mr Justice Kevin Cross heard testimony that Martin – a father-of-four and retired taxi driver – was a very active and involved man before his heart attack, engaging in diverse activities such as camping and scuba diving. In her testimony, Una told the judge that “we thought it was the beginning of the rest of our lives as our children were working or at college”.

An interim settlement of compensation had been negotiated between the parties, amounting to €1.5 million. The purpose of this settlement is to cover Martin’s medical and care expenses for a three-year period as other reports into his claim and condition are being compiled. This also allows time for a new system of periodic payments to be introduced into Ireland.

Mary Day, the CEO of the Mater University Hospital, read an apology to Martin and his family, after which Judge Cross approved the compensation settlement, commenting that Una had “suffered something nobody should have suffered”. Before closing the case, he wished Martin and his family well for the future.