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Settlement of Girl´s Claim for the Misdiagnosis of Meningitis Approved in the High Court

A High Court judge has approved the settlement of a girl´s claim for the misdiagnosis of meningitis made against the County Kerry-based South Doc service.

Early in the morning of July 10th, 2005, the concerned parents of a three-year-old girl telephoned the South Doc out-of-hours medical service, worried about their daughter´s condition. The previous eventing she had been drowsy and vomiting, and had developed a rash on her stomach. She was also running a high temperature and had suffered overnight from diarrhoea.

The parents were told to bring their daughter into the clinic on Kinsdale Road in Cork, where she was attended by Dr Leon Britz. After a short examination, Dr Britz diagnosed that the young girl was suffering from tonsillitis and told the family not to worry. However, four and a half hours later, the family returned to the clinic, concerned that the girl´s condition had deteriorated and that the rash on her stomach had reddened and spread over a wider area.

The girl was accurately diagnosed as suffering from meningitis and she was referred to the Emergency Department of Cork General Hospital. At Cork General Hospital, the diagnosis of meningitis was confirmed and the girl was administered antibiotics before being transferred to Our Lady´s Children´s Hospital in Dublin. Due to the delayed diagnosis, the girl had both legs amputated below the knee.

After seeking legal advice, the girl´s mother made a claim for the misdiagnosis of meningitis against Dr Britz and the South Doc service on her daughter´s behalf. It was claimed in the legal action that the misdiagnosis of meningitis had resulted in an avoidable delay in the administration of antibiotics which had “profound consequences” for the young girl.

Dr Britz and the South Doc service admitted that mistakes had been made in the diagnosis, and agreed to a settlement of the claim for the misdiagnosis of meningitis amounting to €5.6 million. As the claim for the misdiagnosis of meningitis had been made on behalf of a child, the proposed settlement had to be approved by a judge to ensure it was in the girl´s best interests.

At the approval hearing last week in the High Court, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told of the circumstances leading up to the misdiagnosis and the consequences for the girl. The judge approved the settlement of the claim for the misdiagnosis of meningitis, noting that the outcome could have been far worse, and praising the girl´s parent for the care they had given their daughter over the years.

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