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Hospital Obstetric Negligence Compensation Claim Settled at Court

The family of a girl, who sustained brain damage at birth when a locum doctor failed to recognise the necessity for a Caesarean section, have had their hospital obstetric negligence compensation claim settled at the High Court.

Sonya Butler, a native of Dunmore in County Waterford was taken to Waterford Regional Hospital in April 2005 after a healthy pregnancy and was looking forward to giving birth to her first child. However, her consultant obstetrician – John Bermingham – and the hospital´s two other obstetric doctors had all been permitted to take annual leave at the same time, and the hospital had employed a locum – Mahmud Khbuli – to cover for them.

Sadly, Dr Khbuli did not recognise the necessity for a Caesarean section during Sonya´s pre-operative examination and, when Sonya´s daughter – Alex – was delivered, she had experienced a lack of oxygen in the womb which resulted in the little girl suffering brain trauma and she was born tetraplegic.

In a legal action taken on her behalf by her mother, Alex made a hospital obstetric negligence compensation claim against the hospital, Dr Bermingham and Dr Khbuli; claiming that the hospital was negligent by failing to employ a sufficient number of adequately trained and competent medical staff to supervise her delivery, that Dr Bermingham should not have taken leave when the family had chosen private treatment and that Sonya´s pre-operative examination by Dr Khbuli was substandard.

At the High Court, the Health Service Executive (HSE) agreed that errors were made which should never have occurred and an apology was read out to the family on behalf of Waterford Regional Hospital. The court was informed that the action against Doctors Bermingham and Khbuli had been dropped and medical negligence compensation of €1.4 million had been agreed as an interim settlement of the family´s chospital obstetric negligence compensation claim.

The compensation figure is to be reviewed in two years, when Alex’s future care needs have been assessed and there may be the option of a structured settlement.

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One Step Closer to Compensation for Symphysiotomy Survivors

The prospect of compensation for symphysiotomy survivors moved one step closer last night when the second stage of Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin Private Members Bill to introduce a one year window in the Statute of Limitations passed through the Dáil unopposed.

Many of the women who underwent symphysiotomy and pubiotomy procedures without their knowledge or consent were in the Dáil to hear the Sinn Féin’s Health Spokesman introduce his Bill by saying “Lifting the statute bar – unanimously recommended by the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice in June 2012 – would obviate procedural battles and ensure unfettered access for all to the courts. Judges here have no discretion in relation to the statute bar, as they do in other common law jurisdictions”.

The issue that faced the survivors of symphysiotomy procedures – carried out in Ireland between the 1940s and 1990s to aid childbirth as an alternative to a Caesarean Section – is that their right to claim compensation for symphysiotomy injuries was time-barred by the Statute of Limitations. Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin´s proposed legislation would open a one-year window to enable claims for compensation for symphysiotomy survivors to be processed through the courts.

The Government had already indicated that they would not oppose the proposed Private Members Bill, and Health Minister Dr. James Reilly received a warm reception when he announced that he would ensure that legislation to allow compensation for symphysiotomy survivors would be put in place by the end of the year. “Actions must bring closure for those who have been harmed, and who we cannot give back their lives,” he said. “But we can ensure resources flow to them and not elsewhere.

A spokesman for the Department of Health believes some work needs to be done on the drafting of the legislation for it to pass through the committee stage and into law, but Dr. Reilly indicated in his speech that he would brief the Government further once he receives the final independent Walsh Report.

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