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Settlement of Claim for a Fatal Sedative Overdose in Hospital Approved in Court

The settlement of a family´s claim for a fatal sedative overdose in hospital has been approved following a hearing in the High Court.

The claim concerned the death of Margaret Duggan (69) from Screen in County Wexford, who died just eight days after being admitted to St. Vincent´s Hospital in Dublin on 11th December 2009 suffering from an abdominal pain.

Despite suffering from multiple sclerosis, Margaret was not considered to be in serious ill-health, but throughout the first few days of her stay in hospital she was administered inappropriate doses of medication to calm her down whenever she became upset or agitated.

Margaret subsequently developed aspiration pneumonia and a failure to treat once the condition was identified led to her suffering a cardiac arrest soon after being moved to intensive care.

At the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard that Margaret´s widower – William Duggan – and her three children had made a claim for a fatal sedative overdose in hospital after William suffered from severe shock on hearing the news of his wife´s death.

It was also alleged in the family´s action that his condition had been exacerbated by the hospital´s insensitivity at requesting an immediate post-mortem without giving the family any explanation of how Margaret´s death occurred.

A subsequent investigation resulted in St Joseph´s Hospital admitting that Margaret´s death could have been avoided were it not for the negligent treatment she received, and an offer of compensation for a fatal sedative overdose was made to the family amounting to €110,000.

After hearing the circumstances of Margaret´s death, and that the family were prepared to accept the proposed settlement of their claim for a fatal sedative overdose in hospital, Ms Justice Mary Irvine approved the settlement, saying to William Duggan, “It must have been very traumatic to arrive in the hospital after her death. I hope as the years go by the loss lessens”.

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