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Couple Awarded Medical Negligence Compensation for the Death of a Baby

A couple have been awarded €70,000 medical negligence compensation for the death of a baby son after an approval hearing at the High Court.

Fiona Watters was admitted into the Cavan General Hospital on 20th November 2012 in the later stages of her first pregnancy. Fiona´s waters broke at 10:30am on the morning of 22nd November and she was administered Prostiglandin to accelerate her labour.

During the day the levels of Prostiglandin were increased. At 9:30pm that evening a natural birth was attempted but, after an hour of pushing, the midwife rang consultant obstetrician Dr Salah Aziz to inform him that the baby´s head was not visible and the indications were that the baby was suffering foetal distress.

Dr Aziz arrived at the Labour Ward to discover that another Caesarean Section operation was taking place in the only out-of-hours theatre. He attempted both a forceps delivery and a vacuum delivery – both of which failed. When the theatre became available, Fiona underwent an emergency Caesarean Section operation, but her son – Jamie – was delivered in a very poor condition.

Jamie was transferred to the special care baby unit at the Rotunda Hospital, where he tragically died two days later in his mother´s arms. An initial investigation into the cause of Jamie´s death was quashed by the High Court in August 2013 after Dr Aziz successfully argued that HSE investigators had not followed the correct procedures.

However Fiona and her partner – Francis Flynn – had already received an advanced copy of the report and, after seeking legal advice, they claimed medical negligence compensation for the death of a baby against Cavan General Hospital and the HSE.

The HSE failed to acknowledge liability for Jamie´s death until almost a year later and only then commissioned a second investigation into the events leading up to Jamie´s delivery. However, this time the investigation was to be carried out by an independent review team following the subsequent deaths of two more children at the Cavan General Hospital.

In December 2014, an inquest into Jamie´s death attributed it to medical misadventure. The coroner said that the increased administration of Prostiglandin, Dr Aziz´s failure to inform the registrar that the Jamie´s delivery was expected that evening and the lack of a second out-of-hours theatre at the hospital were all causative events for Jamie´s death.

Following the coroner´s verdict, negotiations started with the State Claims Agency to settle the claim for medical negligence compensation for the death of a baby. Due to the traumatic circumstances leading up to Jamie´s birth and the protracted investigations into Jamie´s death, a settlement of €70,000 was agreed.

Earlier this week a hearing at the High Court took place to approve the settlement. Mr Justice Richard Humphreys heard that the size of the settlement reflected the long-lasting grief and distress that had been suffered by Jamie´s parents. Judge Humphreys approved the settlement, stipulating that €5,000 of the settlement should be paid into court funds for the benefit of Fiona and Francis´ daughter.

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