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Widow to Receive Compensation for the Failure to Diagnose Meningitis after Hearing

A widow, who was told her husband was suffering from constipation, is to receive compensation for the failure to diagnose meningitis following his death.

On 26th May 2010, Philip Morrissey (39) from Kilkenny attended his GP complaining of a high temperature, a headache and earache. He was referred to the Accident & Emergency department of St Luke´s Hospital in Kilkenny, where he was admitted with a high pulse rate and complaining of an intolerance to light.

Six hours after being admitted, Philip appeared to his wife – Gail – to be disorientated and drowsy. She raised her concerns with medical staff and was told that his condition was attributable to constipation. However, the following morning Philip was found slumped in his bed having suffered a cardiac arrest. His cardiac arrest was later identified as having been triggered by streptococcal pneumonia meningitis.

After seeking legal advice, Gail claimed compensation for the failure to diagnose meningitis against the Health Service Executive (HSE). She alleged that Philip had not been seen by a doctor since 3:40pm on the day prior to his death, and that there had been a failure to consider his symptoms attributable to meningitis, to correctly diagnose his condition and treat it.

Following an investigation into the circumstances of Philip´s death, the HSE admitted liability and a settlement of Gail´s claim was negotiated amounting to €455,000. Due to the nature of Philip´s death, the settlement of compensation for the failure to diagnose meningitis had to be approved, and consequently the case was presented to Mr Justice Michael Hanna at the High Court.

After the judge heard the circumstances of Philip´s death, a statement was read out to the family by a representative of the HSE apologising for the standard of care Philip had received. Judge Hanna then approved the settlement of compensation for the failure to diagnose meningitis – commenting that a “huge tragedy” had befallen the family and, while money could never compensate for Philip´s loss, it was the best the law could do.

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