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Judge Increases Award made by Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal

A High Court judge has increased an award made by the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal after hearing an appeal from a woman who developed encephalopathy.

The unnamed plaintiff was one of thousands of women who in 1977 were given an anti-D immunoglobulin blood transfusion infected with Hepatitis C. In 1998, the plaintiff had been awarded €298,000 by the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal, but she had returned to the Tribunal earlier this year, seeking more compensation after developing “life destroying” side effects of brain damage and cirrhosis of the liver.

The Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal awarded the plaintiff a further €180,000 but, on the basis that a previous case had been settled for €250,000 after a woman had developed similar injuries, the plaintiff appealed the decision to the High Court. The Minister for Health opposed the plaintiff´s appeal on the grounds that the case was different to the one in which the higher award was made.

The Minister of Health argued that the plaintiff received treatment for Hepatitis C before her condition was diagnosed. However, at the High Court, Mr Justice Bernard Barton heard that the plaintiff´s “decompensated cirrhosis” had been triggered by the ribavirin therapy she had undergone in 2013 to treat the Hepatitis C virus after tests revealed a serious deterioration of her liver.

The judge also heard that the plaintiff had developed encephalopathy as a result of her treatment – a side effect which manifests as slurred speech and forgetfulness, and which is irreversible and requires ongoing medical treatment to control its effects. The encephalopathy condition had resulted in severe mental anguish it was claimed.

Judge Barton found in the plaintiff´s favour – saying that the High Court had the jurisdiction to compensate the woman for the pain and suffering arising out of the treatment she underwent in 2013. The judge said that it was “only fair and reasonable” that the award by the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal be increased to €250,000 to reflect the full and independent life that the plaintiff could no longer lead.

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