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Failed Sterilisation Compensation Awarded by High Court

The High Court has awarded a mother €100,000 for failed sterilisation compensation after the son she was never supposed to have died after only six months of life.

Karen Hurley-Ahern (41) from County Limerick, underwent the sterilisation operation in February 2001 after finding from her GP that she had an unusual blood-clotting disorder that would pose a risk to herif ever she were to fall pregnant again.

The operation was carried by gynaecologist Dr Victor Moore at the Tralee General Hospital, but in April 2002 Karen became pregnant once more and, after a difficult pregnancy, gave birth to baby Samuel on 10th October 2002 – six weeks prematurely and by emergency Caesarean section.

Samuel experienced severe abnormalities which were unrelated to Kare’s sterilisation operation, and stayed in hospital for six months – kept alive by a series of life-support machines. In April 2003, Samuel experienced a severe heart attack and Karen and her partner – Garrett Ahern – made the difficult decision to turn off the life-support machines.

After seeking legal guidance, Karen and Garrett began a claim for failed sterilisation compensation against Dr Moore and the Southern Health Board (now the Health Service Executive), for the pain and trauma the couple had been through due to the unsuccessful sterilisation procedure.

Dr Moore and the HSE did not accept liability – alleging that the operation had been performed correctly and the couple had been advised that there was a chance of failure. However, in the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Sean Ryan ruled in favour of the now-separated claimants – recognising that Samuel’s disability was not as a result of the failed sterilisation procedure, but stating that Karen had suffered to a major extent due to the defendant´s negligence.

Awarding Karen €100,000 in failed sterilisation compensation, Mr Justice Sean Ryan stated that the award was in respect of the worry she had suffered when she found she was pregnant, the pain of childbirth, the distress of Samuel’s illness and distress after his death. However, no compensation award was made to Garrett as – according to Mt Justice Sean Ryan – while he had undoubtedly endured emotional trauma, there was no evidence Garrett had sustained a defined psychiatric injury.

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