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Woman Awarded €140,000 Compensation for Vaginal Swab Left behind after Birth of Child

A woman has been awarded €140,000 compensation for a vaginal swab left behind after the birth of her child that resulted in severe physical and emotional trauma.

On 24th December 2012, Claire Lalor from Swords in County Dublin gave birth at the National Maternity Hospital after a difficult labour. Claire was discharged three days later, but returned to the hospital on January 2nd and January 9th with concerns about a pain in her lower abdomen and an unpleasant smell coming from her vagina.

On neither visit to the hospital was Claire examined internally and, during her visit on 9th January, she was prescribed antibiotics to deal with a suspected infection. Claire continued to experience pain, while the unpleasant smell worsened. She returned to the hospital again on 16th January, and on this occasion it was discovered that a vaginal swab had been left inside of her after the birth of her child.

The swab was removed, but Claire continued to experience pain. She returned once more to the National Maternity Hospital on January 18th, but was discharged the same day after being diagnosed with post-natal depression. However, on her return home, Claire´s condition worsened and she started suffering from chills, sweating and diarrhoea.

Claire was taken to the Beaumont Hospital where she was diagnosed with C.difficile – a bacterial infection that had developed as a result of unnecessarily being prescribed antibiotics. Once she had recovered from the infection, she sought legal advice and claimed compensation for a vaginal swab left behind after the birth of her child.

The National Maternity Hospital acknowledged responsibility for the errors that had led to the pain Claire had experienced as a result of the swab being left inside of her, the unpleasant smell that had developed due to the hospital´s error, and the C.difficle infection that had developed due to being unnecessarily prescribed antibiotics.

However, the extent of Claire´s emotional trauma was contested. The hospital argued that the psychological injury she was claiming was attributable to post-natal depression rather than the consequences of the swab being left behind inside her. With no agreement over how much compensation for a vaginal swab left behind after the birth of her child Claire was entitled to, the case went to the High Court for the assessment of damages where it was heard by Mr Justice Kevin Cross.

At the hearing, Judge Cross agreed with the National Maternity Hospital that the difficult labour prior to the birth of Claire´s child made it more likely that she might suffer from post-natal depression, and that her continuing symptoms of emotion trauma may have had some origin in her underlying disposition.

However, Judge Cross said that were it not for the negligent post-natal care that Claire had received, she would have recovered from any post-natal depression quicker and was “entirely appropriately extremely distressed” by the episode relating to the swab. The judge awarded Claire €140,000 compensation for a vaginal swab left behind after the birth of her child, commenting that he believed she was a truthful witness when giving her evidence.

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