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Syntocinon Medical Negligence Claims a Concern for Experts

Experts from the State Claims Agency and the Rotunda Hospital have agreed that consistent guidelines are needed to reduce Syntocinon medical negligence claims.

Syntocinon is a brand name for oxytocin – a synthetic drug used prior to childbirth to induce labour or accelerate contractions. The benefits of Syntocinon are that they reduce the amount of time a mother is in labour and helps the womb to contract if a birth is necessary by Caesarean Section.

There are many risks involved with the use of Syntocinon; and, when the drug is administered, both mother and baby need monitoring to avert complications such as an adverse reaction or foetal distress. There are also many circumstances in which the administration of Syntocinon is dangerous to mother, baby or both.

Syntocinon is classified as a “high-alert medication” and has been attributed to the death of four babies at the Portlaoise Hospital due to inadequate monitoring. Syntocinin medical negligence claims have resulted from inadequate monitoring at other hospitals; and, in November 2013, a couple from Rathgar in Dublin were awarded €150,000 compensation for nervous shock after their baby died at the Rotunda Hospital.

When children have survived, but have been brain damaged during the delivery process, the settlement of medical negligence Syntocinon claims has been significantly higher. Jamie Patterson was awarded an interim settlement of €1.58 million compensation for cerebral palsy in May last year, while Skye Worthington´s €2.32 million interim settlement of cerebral palsy compensation was approved last February.

The State Claims Agency – the agency that pays settlements of medical negligence Syntocinon claims made against the HSE – recently commented on a report conducted on the use of Syntocinon in Irish hospitals. The report showed significant inconsistency in how the drug is administered – inconsistencies which, Dr Sam Coulter-Smith, Master of the Rotunda Hospital, described as “putting unborn children at unnecessary risk”.

The report revealed that maternity staff at one Irish hospital received no guidance on the use of Syntocinon – including the dosage that should be administered to expectant mothers – and that two maternity units provided no guidance on the monitoring of expectant mothers and their babies.

Mary Godfrey – the State Claims Agency´s clinical risk advisor – commented that the report showed the need for consistent guidelines to improve outcomes for mothers and babies, and to prevent Syntocinon medical negligence claims being made against the HSE.

Ms Godfrey´s comments were echoed by Dr Coulter-Smith who – speaking on Newstalk´s Lunchtime Show – said “The issue with each of the maternity units having their own rules on its use means doctors moving from one to another don’t have common set of guidelines to follow.”

What both medical experts failed to comment on was one alarming discovery in the report which read “No service obtains explicit written consent from women prior to starting them on the drug.” The State Claims Agency and Irish Hospitals will also have to address the issue of “informed consent” if they wish to see a reduction in Syntocinon medical negligence claims.

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