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Court Approves Compensation for Wrongful Death after Caesarean Operation

The High Court has approved a settlement of compensation for wrongful death after a Caesarean operation in the case of Michael Kivlehan -v- The Health Service Executive.

Michael Kivlehan brought the claim for a wrongful death after a Caesarean operation following the events surrounding the birth of his son – Dior – and the death of his wife – Dhara – who died from multiple organ failure secondary to HELLP syndrome on September 29th, 2010.

Twenty-nine year old Dhara Kivlehan had been admitted to the Sligo General Hospital on September 20th 2010, two weeks overdue and having experienced painless contractions for two days. On examination, Dhara was exhibiting symptoms of oedema and had high blood pressure.

A blood test carried out on Dhara after her admission also showed that her liver and kidneys were not functioning correctly, but doctor´s were not made aware of her condition for twelve hours due to a break-down of communication within the hospital.

The morning following her admission, Dhara´s son was delivered by Caesarean Section and she was moved to a side room off of the main Maternity Ward at the hospital. However, after being placed in the side room, Dhara´s condition started to deteriorate and her family became concerned.

Dhara was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit at 4.45pm the day after giving birth to her son but, at 11.00pm that evening, her condition had deteriorated to such an extent that she was air-lifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast to receive specialist treatment. Dhara failed to recover, and died four days later.

Michael Kivlehan made a claim for compensation for a wrongful death after a Caesarean operation against the Health Service Executive; alleging that the Sligo Hospital had failed in their duty of care to identify the symptoms of pre-eclampsia and failed to act in time to prevent his wife´s death.

The Health Service Executive denied the allegations – claiming that there had been no failure by the Sligo General Hospital to recognise the significance and severity of Dhara´s condition or to treat her appropriately.

Michael persevered with his claim and, shortly before a scheduled court hearing was about to be held to determine whether the Health Service Executive had a case to answer, the HSE acknowledged that there had been “shortcomings” in the treatment Dhara had received and an out-of-court settlement of Michael´s claim for a wrongful death after a Caesarean operation was negotiated.

At the High Court, a representative from the Health Service Executive read out a statement of condolence in which the Executive apologised unreservedly for the mistakes that had been made in the management of Dhara´s condition. The statement also alleged that lessons had been learned from the case.

After hearing the apology, Ms Justice Mary Irvine approved the settlement of compensation for a wrongful death after a Caesarean operation and offered the family her sympathy. She also criticised the Health Service Executive for “holding out until almost the bitter end” before admitting liability and causing the Kivlehan family additional distress unnecessarily.

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Options to Compensate Women for Symphysiotomy Injuries to be Investigated by Judge

Judge Yvonne Murphy has been appointed by the Government to investigate the options available to compensate women for the symphysiotomy injuries they sustained from the childbirth procedure.

Dr James Reilly – the Minister for Health – announced this week that Judge Yvonne Murphy has been appointed to investigate feasible options to compensate women for symphysiotomy injuries they sustained during the controversial childbirth procedure that took place in Irish hospitals between 1940 and 1990.

Judge Murphy´s appointment comes shortly after the government went back on a pledge to allow Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin´s Private Members Bill through the Dail unopposed – a Bill which would have created a one-year window in the Statute of Limitations and allowed around 300 women who underwent symphysiotomy operations to claim compensation.

The U-turn occurred after legal advisors warned the Government that the Bill would face legal challenges in passed – particularly from the insurance companies liable to compensate women for symphysiotomy injuries, who had already accused the Government of “moving the goalposts” on claims for personal injury compensation.

The judge has been asked to recommend a means to compensate women for symphysiotomy injuries by February 2014, and the Health Minster said that if this were to be in the form of “ex gratia” payments, the Government would be prepared to contribute to the fund. It is also understood that Judge Murphy will be speaking with insurance companies to discover whether they would also contribute towards such a scheme.

Reaction to the announcement was mixed, with Tom Moran – Chairman of the support group Survivors of Symphysiotomy Ltd – welcoming the appointment of Judge Murphy. However, Sinn Fein´s health spokesman – Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin – said “The type of scheme outlined in the terms of reference offers the women no prospect of adequate compensation for what was so barbarically done to them nor the choice to pursue their rights in the courts.”

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Compensation Claim for Mismanaged Birth Resolved

A Dublin couple´s compensation claim for a mismanaged birth has been resolved out of court after the couple in question agreed to a settlement of €150,000 without admission of liability.

Jane Farren from Rathgar in Dublin was close to the birth of her third child, and had been admitted to the Rotunda Hospital on the 16th October 2008 due to a spontaneous membrane rupture. Jane was administered Syntocinin to induce her labour and, at 3.45am the following morning, a vacuum delivery was attempted.

Thirty minutes later, her daughter Molly was born by emergency Caesarean Section, but staff at the hospital could not resuscitate her, and Molly was declared dead twenty minutes later – due to which both Jane and her partner Feidhlimidh Wrafter suffered nervous shock.

Jane and Feidhlimidh made a compensation claim for a mismanaged birth against consultant gynaecologist Professor Fergal Malone and the Rotunda Hospital, alleging that both parties had failed to identify abnormalities in the foetal heart rate in time to act upon them; and that when the abnormalities were noticed, nursing staff at the hospital failed to act in a timely manner.

It was also claimed that the couple had been misinformed after Jane´s admission into the hospital regarding the health of the foetus, and that they were led to believe – after Molly´s death – that nothing could have been done to save Molly as the cause of death could not be explained.

Professor Malone and the Rotunda Hospital both denied their liability for Molly´s death and the couple´s nervous shock; however a settlement of the couple´s compensation claim for a mismanaged birth was agreed without admission of liability and the case was struck out at the High Court.

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Judge Adjourns Claim for Failing to Act on Test Results

A High Court judge has adjourned a compensation claim for failing to act on test results after approving an interim settlement of compensation for an eight-year-old girl suffering from cerebral palsy.

At the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told how Isabelle Sheehan was delivered by emergency Caesarean Section at the Bon Secours Maternity Hospital in Cork in November 2004, after the results from an earlier blood test on her mother – Catherine – had shown a significant increase in the presence of antibodies which had the potential to react with those of Isabelle´s father, Colm.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross also heard that, had Catherine Sheehan´s paediatric consultant – Dr David Corr – referred Catherine to a specialist at the time the results were known, Isabelle could have been born earlier and the spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy she suffered at the time of her delivery could have been avoided.

Through her mother, Isabelle made a compensation claim for failing to act on test results against Dr Corr – who admitted that he had “made a mistake” and accepted liability for Isabelle´s injuries – and, at a hearing in October 2011, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill approved an initial €1.9 million settlement of compensation and adjourned the case for two years to allow for the introduction of a structured compensation payment system.

As two years had passed, and no system for structured compensation payments has yet been introduced, Mr Justice Kevin Cross approved a further interim payment of €635,000 to provide Isabelle she will need for the forthcoming two years and adjourned her compensation claim for failing to act on test results once again.

The judge heard that, with assistance, Isabelle was keeping up with her classmates at her mainstream national school and that she was bright and intelligent. Mr Justice Kevin Cross closed the hearing by wishing Isabelle all the best for the future.

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Woman to Receive Compensation for Prescription of Wrong Drug after Case goes to Appeal Court

A woman in Australia is to receive compensation for the prescription of the wrong drug against a doctor contracted by her employer after the case was heard in the Court of Appeal.

Michelle Strickland from Macquarie Fields in Sydney brought her compensation claim for the prescription of the wrong drug after the fifty-three year old process line worker had passed out in November 2010 at Chep Australia’s Wetherill Park factory.

Michelle was taken to hospital, where a CT scan revealed that an aneurysm in her brain had ruptured and she had suffered a near-fatal neurological injury. Michelle underwent two major brain operations over the course of the next twelve months, but now suffers from facial paralysis and memory loss, and has difficulty holding a conversation with her two grandchildren.

Following a routine visit to her GP, a connection was found between the ruptured aneurysm and anti-inflammatory medication she had been prescribed by her employer´s contracted doctor to treat a repetitive strain injury she had developed while working on the factory process line.

Michelle made a claim for compensation for the prescription of the wrong drug against her employer, claiming that she had complained to the company´s doctor about headaches which occurred whenever she took the medication, but the doctor had advised her to rest until headaches passed and then to start working again.

Chep Australia denied Michelle´s claim, arguing that there was no link between Michelle´s neurological injury and her role in the factory, and that her ruptured aneurysm was probably caused by Michelle´s high blood pressure and smoking habit.

After an initial hearing at the New South Wales Workers Compensation Commission, Michelle was awarded a weekly compensation amount and her medical expenses paid; however Michelle´s employers contested the decision and took the case to the Court of Appeal in Sydney.

At the Court of Appeal in Sydney, judges found in Michelle´s favour and upheld the original decision to award compensation for the prescription of the wrong drug.

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Tipperary General Hospital Negligence Claim Settled out of Court

A woman has settled her Tipperary General Hospital negligence claim out of court after a judge considered she would have a “huge hill to climb” to establish liability for her husband´s death.

Margaret Devereux from Greenrath, County Tipperary, brought her Tipperary General Hospital negligence claim following her husband´s death in March 2008 after he had been treated at the hospital for an infected toe.

John Devereux had attended the South Tipperary General Hospital with a swollen toe on his right foot and was diagnosed as having a toe infection caused by septic arthritis. Doctors prescribed Sodium Fusidate to treat the infection and sent John home.

John returned to the hospital several weeks later complaining of pains in his legs. The infection in his toe had not got better, so John was administered further doses of Sodium Fusidate and kept in for observation.

However, John´s condition deteriorated, and it was later diagnosed that he was suffering from the condition rhabdmoloysis – a condition in which the muscles break down – due to which John developed acute renal failure, from which he died on March 2nd.

John´s widow – Margaret – made a claim against Tipperary General Hospital for negligence on the grounds that the medication John had been prescribed when he first attended the hospital had conflicted with the treatment he was receiving for his diabetes.

She further alleged that doctors at the hospital should have recognised the symptoms of rhabdmoloysis when John returned to the hospital and claimed that she had suffered severe mental distress due to the Health Service Executive´s breach in their duty of care.

The HSE denied liability for John´s death and disputed the Tipperary General Hospital negligence claim. However, at the High Court in Dublin, Mrs Justice Mary Irvine was told that an out of court settlement had been agreed which would see Margaret receive €45,000 compensation without admission of liability.

Mrs Justice Mary Irvine approved the settlement, saying that John´s death had been very tragic but in the circumstances Margaret would have had a huge hill to climb to establish negligence against the South Tipperary General Hospital.

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Percentage of Accepted Awards by the Injuries Board Continues to Decline

The percentage of accepted awards made by the Injuries Board has continued to decline according to data published on injuriesboard.ie.

The six-month interim report shows that 16,162 applications for the assessment of personal injury compensation were received by the Injuries Board in the six months to June 2013. 5,286 awards by the Injuries Board were accepted during this period, for an average value of €22,349 – an acceptance rate of 32.7 percent, considerably lower than the acceptance rate of 37.2 percent for the corresponding period in 2012.

Despite the lower acceptance rate, the value of awards by the Injuries Board continues to rise. The total value of awards in the six month period (€118.14 million) was significantly higher than in the first six months of 2012 (€109.03 million) and was explained by Patricia Byron – CEO of the Injuries Board – as being due to some exceptional Injuries Boards awards – including their highest ever accepted assessment of €976,000.

Ms Byron commented that the higher volume of applications for assessment and the increased value of the awards by the Injuries Board should not be used as an excuse by insurance companies to increase their premiums. She said that preliminary figures for Quarter 3 of 2013 indicated a reduction in the number of applications for assessment received by the Injuries Board and that “a continuation of that trend could see full year volume increases being pared back to about 5% – on par with prior years”.

She added that, although there had been an increase in the value of awards by the Injuries Board, the reduction in the processing fee paid by respondents from €850.00 to €600.00 (usually paid by insurance companies on behalf of their policyholders) should more than counter the effect of the higher personal injury compensation settlements.

The majority of awards by the Injuries Board were made for injuries sustained in road traffic accidents (75.5 percent) with public liability claims for injuries sustained in places of public access accounting for 16.4 percent and compensation claims for injuries in the workplace falling once again to 8.1 percent of the awards made by the Injuries Board. The Injuries Board does not process applications for assessment when the plaintiff has sustained a loss, injury or the deterioration of an existing condition due to hospital negligence.

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Compensation for Side Effects from Flu Jab Available in UK

A support group in Ireland has claimed that the government has not fulfilled its promise to provide permanent compensation for the side effects from the flu jab Pandemrix despite families in the UK being able to claim compensation from the Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme

The support group Sufferers of Unique Narcolepsy Disorder (SOUND) has claimed that comments made by Health Minister James Reilly in a radio interview last week were made without knowledge of the facts.

In the radio interview, the health minister said that – to the best of his knowledge – the personal and financial assistance that had been asked for by families in Ireland whose children had suffered side effects from the flu jab Pandemrix had been provided.

However, Eilish Plunkett – a SOUND committee member, whose son Sean is one of the children suffering from narcolepsy as a result of the Pandemrix flu vaccine – has claimed that the minister’s statement is not supported by the facts.

Ms Plunkett claims that although some services and financial compensation for the side effects from the flu jab Pandemrix were in place, the assistance that was being provided was classified as temporary and could be taken away at any time.

She said that her son has a permanent illness which needs life-long support and claimed that Health Minister James Reilly had promised the group that a package of permanent support measures recommended in an official 2012 report would be approved before the summer recess in 2012.

However, the report – Investigation of an Increase in the Incidence of Narcolepsy in Children and Adolescents in 2009 and 2010”has still not gone before the government for approval while families in the UK have already been told how much compensation for the side effects of the flu jab Pandemrix they will be able to claim.

The financial support in the UK is being provided by the Vaccine Damage Payments Scheme which is administered by the Department of Work and Pensions. Families who have children who have developed narcolepsy as a consequence of being administered the swine flu vaccine will be able to claim up to £120,000 provided that a severe disability can be proven.

A spokesperson from the Department of Work and Pensions said “The Department for Work and Pensions has looked at some vaccine damage payments cases again in light of new information regarding swine flu and narcolepsy provided by the Department for Health”.

More than 800,000 doses of the flu jab Pandemrix were administered in Ireland throughout the H1N1 swine flu pandemic of 2009/10. The Health Service Executive acknowledged that there were thirty cases of the sleeping disorder narcolepsy among children who were administered the flu jab. However, SOUND claim to represent the interests of fifty-four families in Ireland with children who are suffering from side effects to Pandemrix.

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Judge Katz Delays First Bellwether Hearing for Faulty DePuy Hip Replacement Systems

The judge in charge of the multidistrict litigation has delayed the hearing for the faulty DePuy hip replacement systems to allow additional time for both parties to complete the discovery process.

The first Federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) hearing for the faulty DePuy hip replacement systems was delayed again last week after the parties in McCracken -v- DePuy (Case No 1:11 dp 20485) were permitted more time by the U.S. District Judge in charge of the hearing – David A. Katz.

The first `Bellwether` hearing for the faulty DePuy hip replacement systems has now been rescheduled for September 24th, and will concern the hip dislocation suffered by Ann McCracken (57) from Rochester in New York, instead of the injury sustained by the original plaintiff Fate Dorney-Madgitz.

Ann had a DePuy ASR XL metal-on-metal hip replacement system implanted in August 2009, but had to undergo revision surgery in January 2011 after she had suffered a dislocated hip. Her claim against DePuy Orthopaedics is based on testimony from her orthopaedic surgeon who alleges there was evidence of metallosis when he removed the DePuy implant.

In October 2011, Ann had to endure a further painful operation to implant a second device which would restrict the movement of her hip and prevent future dislocations. This second implant has reduced Ann´s mobility further and will result in her present hip replacement system wearing out quicker – resulting in future revision surgery being required.

The latest delay stems from Judge Katz´s decision that the worldwide recall of the faulty DePuy hip replacement systems should not be referred to in the hearing – not only in order that Ann´s claim be heard on its individual merits, but also because the judge agreed that any reference to the DePuy recall might dissuade other companies from voluntarily withdrawing their potentially dangerous medical devices.

Ann´s hearing for the faulty DePuy hip replacement systems is the first in a series of Federal cases which will establish the relative strengths and weaknesses of the plaintiffs´ claims and DePuy Orthopaedic´s defence. If Ann´s case – and other Bellwether trials still to be heard – helps to determine a yardstick for compensation settlements, DePuy Orthopaedics are likely to negotiate settlements of compensation with the other 7,800 plaintiffs who have included their own claims in the multidistrict litigation.

However, if the outcome of the ‘Bellwether’ trials does not establish a scale against which compensation for the faulty DePuy hip replacement systems can be measured, the remaining DePuy compensation claims will be referred back to the US District Courts in which they were originally filed – with each hearing for the faulty DePuy hip replacement systems heard separately.

This would also be the scenario in Ireland, where plaintiffs who have made claims for compensation against DePuy Orthopaedics, Johnson & Johnson and the Health Service Executive would have to pursue their legal action individually through the courts.

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Cerebral Palsy Birth Injuries Could be Reduced by More Senior Doctors Claims Consultant

A leading hospital consultant has claimed that the number of cerebral palsy birth injuries could be reduced if more senior doctors were available to provide 24/7 cover for labour wards.

Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, Master of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, was speaking at a special conference convened to hear from doctors, midwives, the legal profession and families on how preventable cerebral palsy birth injuries to babies could be reduced.

He said that the number of babies born with cerebral palsy birth injuries had not reduced in the past twenty years despite an increase in foetal monitoring and births by Caesarean section, and acknowledged that a percentage of babies born with cerebral palsy were due to mistakes by hospitals and medical staff which could have been prevented.

Dr Coulter-Smith told the conference that junior doctors are being asked to make decisions regarding the healthcare of the mother and baby without the necessary experience, and that “there needs to be 24/7 cover of labour wards by senior consultants to address this problem”.

However, the consultant continued, senior doctors are only required to work between 8.00am and 8.00pm under the terms of their current consultant contracts and, for the remainder of the time, they can be at home on call and only have come to the hospital when there is an emergency.

Dr Coulter-Smith explained that the Rotunda Hospital had tried to reduce the number of cerebral palsy birth injuries by setting up a second tier of experienced junior doctors who are available outside “normal” working hours. However, he admitted, this policy was contrary to the demands of the Health Service Executive, who want the Rotunda Hospital to reduce their medical staff.

He added that he hoped the Health Service Executive would pay attention to the message from the conference because State compensation payments for cerebral palsy birth injuries each year amounted to €45million – equivalent to the Rotunda Hospital´s annual budget.

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