Woman Compensated for Damages due to Forgotten Vaginal Swab

A woman from Dublin has been awarded a six-figure settlement of compensation for injuries that resulted from a forgotten vaginal swab that had been used during her labour.

Claire Lalor, from Swords in Co. Dublin, gave birth on the 24th December 2012 at the National Maternity Hospital. The labour had been long and difficult, and Claire was discharged from the hospital three days after the delivery. However, she returned on two consecutive occasions in two weeks as she was complaining of an unpleasant smell and cramps in her lower abdomen.

However, Claire was never examined internally – despite her concerns – and on her second visit a prescription of antibiotics was given to deal with the supposed infection. Yet a week later her condition had not improved and Claire was finally given an internal examination. The doctor discovered that a vaginal swab – that had been used to stem bleeding during Claire’s labour – had been left inside her.

Though the swab was removed, Claire continued to experience pain. Further visits to the National Maternity Hospital resulted in a diagnosis of post-natal depression, though Claire then decided to visit Beaumont Hospital. There, she was diagnosed with a Clostridium difficile that was the result of the antibiotics prescription.

Upon her recovery, Claire sought legal counsel and proceeded to make a claim for the injuries she suffered. The hospital acknowledged that they were liable for Claire’s injuries as a result of the forgotten swab and the following bacterial infection, though they contested the extent to which Claire suffered psychologically.

The National Maternity Hospital argued that rather than suffering from psychological damage because of the forgotten swab, Claire was actually suffering from post-natal depression. Negotiations were fruitless, and the case proceeded to the High Court of Dublin where it was heard by Mr Justice Kevin Cross.

Though the judge agreed that the psychological damages for which Claire was claiming were more likely to be attributable to post-natal depression, especially considering her difficult labour, he agreed that – had she received adequate post-natal care – her symptoms may not be as severe. Judge Cross proceeded to award Claire €140,000 in compensation.

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