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Claim for the Failure to Diagnose Vasa Praevia Complications Heard at Court

The High Court has approved a €1.98 million interim settlement of compensation after hearing a claim for the failure to diagnose vasa praevia complications.

In October 2010, a mother from Midleton in County Cork gave birth to twin boys by emergency Caesarean Section at Cork University Maternity Hospital. One of the twins was born in good health, while the second was delivered in a poor condition due to suffering foetal distress in the womb. He was subsequently diagnosed with spastic diplegic cerebral palsy.

On her son´s behalf, the woman made a claim for the failure to diagnose vasa praevia complications during her pregnancy – a scenario in which the foetal blood vessels cross or run near the internal opening of the uterus – alleging that scans conducted the previous June and September revealed a low-lying placenta.

The Cork University Maternity Hospital and Health Service Executive (HSE) denied the allegations, stating that it was not normal practice to conduct further investigations to identify or eliminate the risk of vasa praevia complications. However, an interim settlement of compensation was agreed without an admission of liability.

As the claim for the failure to diagnose vasa praevia complications had been made on behalf of a child, the interim settlement of compensation had to be approved by a court to ensure it was in the boy´s best interests. The approval hearing took place earlier this week, when the court was told about the circumstances leading up to the boy´s birth and the alleged failure to exercise reasonable care at the antenatal stage of the pregnancy.

The court also heard how, in 2014, the boy – now six years of age – had won a National Children of Courage Award, and that last year his family and friends raised funds so that the boy could be flown to Missouri for Selective Dorsal Rhizotomy surgery. Since the surgery the boy has been able to walk for the first time, but he still needs concentrated physiotherapy, speech, language and occupational therapy.

The High Court approved the interim settlement of the claim for the failure to diagnose vasa praevia complications and adjourned the case for five years. In five years´ time, more will be known about the boy´s future needs, and the family will have the options of a further interim settlement or a lump sum settlement if a system of periodic compensation payments is not yet put in place.

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