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Judge Approves Settlement of Compensation for the Failure to Diagnose Hydrocephalus

Mr Justice Kevin Cross has approved a €1.9 million settlement of compensation for the failure to diagnose hydrocephalus in favour of an eight-year-old boy.

Joe Keegan-Grant was born on 17th January 2008 at the Mount Carmel Hospital by emergency Caesarean Section. The emergency procedure had been ordered by doctors wary of applying any pressure to an arachnoid cyst that had been revealed at the base of Joe´s skull during a pre-natal scan.

Despite the presence of the cyst, Joe was discharged from hospital a few days later. Over the course of the next few months, Joe was regularly assessed by public health nurses and paediatrician Dr Vladka Vilimkova. However, despite concerns about his delayed development, neither the public health nurses nor Dr Vilimkova identified that Joe´s head was growing too quickly for his age.

It was only in October 2008 – when Joe had been taken to his family´s new GP in Creggs, County Roscommon, suffering with a chest infection – was any comment made about the size of Joe´s head. Joe was referred to the Crumlin Hospital, where he was diagnosed with hydrocephalus – a condition that is known to be a consequence of an arachnoid cyst, and that can cause developmental delay and autism.

Through his mother, Patricia, Joe claimed compensation for the failure to diagnose hydrocephalus – alleging that both the public health nurses and Dr Vilimkova failed to plot Joe´s head circumference on a chart or exchange information about Joe´s developmental delay. The HSE denied liability, but made the family an offer of compensation for the failure to diagnose hydrocephalus amounting to €1.9 million.

At the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Kevin Cross heard that, although there was evidence to support the claim for compensation for the failure to diagnose hydrocephalus, the HSE had opposing evidence that disputed the link between the failure to diagnose hydrocephalus, developmental delay and autism. With there being a dispute over liability and causation, the court was asked to approve the settlement.

Joe´s father told the judge: “we just want to ensure that we can look after him and offer him the best care and therapy and interventions that can bring him along.” Judge Cross also heard that, despite his autism, Joe was doing well at a mainstream school but he will never be able to care for himself, get a job or lead an independent life.

Judge Cross said in the circumstances it would be prudent to approve the settlement of compensation for the failure to diagnose hydrocephalus. The judge noted there was a risk that, should the case go to a full hearing, Joe might be unsuccessful with his claim against the HSE. The judge approved the settlement and closed the hearing after wishing Joe and his parents all the best for the future.

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