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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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