Category: Medical Malpractice in Ireland

Claiming compensation for medical malpractice in Ireland is one of the most complex areas of Irish law. For a claim for medical malpractice in Ireland to be successful, it has to be shown that a competent medical practitioner “at the time and in the circumstances” would have chosen a different course of action which would have avoided a loss, an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition. Medical procedures can often result in injuries being sustained which could have been prevented under any circumstances so, in order to establish that you have a claim for medical malpractice which is worth your while to pursue, you are invited to call our freephone Solicitors Advisory Panel and discuss the circumstances of your medical injury with an experienced Irish solicitor.

Almost €250m paid in Medical Negligence Claims during 2017

The State Claims Agency (SCA)  has revealed that a record figure of €248.88m was paid in medical negligence claims during 2017.

This figure is an increase of 20.6% on the amount paid out during 2016, €206.4m in total.

In the report released by the State Claims Agency, figures indicate that that the SCA has paid out €1.123bn since 2010 in relation to medical negligence compensation claims. The figures produced show that between clinical, and €32.87m in general claims awarded against the general health sector, the SCA has paid out €1.235bn in total in the last seven years.

These details were revealed to Fianna Fail Finance Spokesman Michael McGrath by the Minister for Finance Fine Gael TD Paschal Donohoe following a written request for the specific details of the figures paid out by the State in compensation claims.

There were also significant increases in compensation claims against other sectors since 2010 including:

  • €23.6m in personal injury claims awarded against the Defence Forces.
  • €19m out by the Irish Prison Service
  • €11m paid out the Child and Family Agency TUSLA since it was established in 2013
  • €111m paid out by state authorities since 2010.

The main finding of the report was that, by far, that largest portion of compensation pay outs by the SCA in 2017 was taken up by the public medical sector.

Another significant point to note from compensation claims made against the state in 2017 were as follows:

  • €1.38m was last year paid out by the SCA on behalf of Comprehensive and Community Schools with €296,673 paid out by the Dept of Health.
  • €261,569 was paid out by the Deptartment of Justice while €574,632 was paid out on behalf of Day Schools.
  • €196,090 was paid out by Childrens’ Detention Schools.

Misdiagnosis and Prescription Errors Responsible in Most Claims for Negligence against GPs

Misdiagnosis and prescription errors have been identified as being the most common reasons for claims for negligence against GPs according to a report commissioned by the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland.

The report – “The Epidemiology of Malpractice Claims in Primary Care: A Systematic Review” – was prepared by the Centre for Primary Care Research in Dublin with the aim of identifying which areas of primary care needed specific attention when planning future educational strategies and developing risk management systems for primary healthcare practitioners.

The key findings of the report were published in the British Medical Journal and included:-

  • The misdiagnosis or delayed diagnosis of cancer was the most common individual reasons for making claims for negligence against GPs.
  • The most frequently misdiagnosed cancers were breast cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer and cancer of the female genital tract.
  • The second most common grounds for successful negligence claims against GPs were prescription and medication errors.
  • The misdiagnosis of heart attacks also accounted for a significant number of claims for negligence against GPs and primary healthcare practitioners.
  • The most frequently misdiagnosed condition for children was appendicitis, but the incorrect diagnosis of meningitis accounted for 30% of compensation paid.
  • The annual prevalence of claims for negligence against GPs for missed diagnosis or delayed diagnosis appears to be on the increase

Lead researcher for the report – Dr Emma Wallace – admitted that primary healthcare practitioners are referring patients to consultants more frequently, as the fear of litigation inhibits their willingness to make diagnoses. This situation is leading to patients´ conditions deteriorating unnecessarily and creating more pressure on an under-resourced health service.

Dr Wallace – who is herself a GP – acknowledged that claims for negligence against GPs were “not a perfect substitute for adverse events”, but said that when medical negligence claims are made against GPs, the medical practitioners involved often experience increased levels of stress – reducing the effectiveness of service they are able to offer, and placing more patients at risk of a delayed diagnosis or medication error.

She added “this systematic review is timely considering the increased interest in focusing on primary care as a way of improving patient care and safety” and she hoped that the report would provide an insight into the types of adverse effects in clinical practice and their causes, which would subsequently increase the standard of primary care and reduce the number claims for negligence against GPs in Ireland.

Interim Settlement of Cerebral Palsy Birth Injury Compensation Approved in Court

An interim settlement of cerebral palsy birth injury compensation relating to a thirteen-year-old boy who was born with irreversible brain damage has been approved in the High Court in Dublin.

The claim for cerebral palsy birth injury compensation was made on behalf of Ryan Brennan from Cahir, County Tipperary, by the boy´s parents following allegedly avoidable complications before and during Ryan´s birth in January 2000 at the St Joseph´s Hospital in Clonmel.

Several hours prior to his delivery, a foetal trace had identified abnormalities in Ryan´s heart rate and, after he was born, he had to be resuscitated and suffered seizures throughout the day. As a result of his delayed birth, Ryan now suffers from irreversible brain damage and cerebral palsy.

It was alleged by Ryan´s parents – Lorraine and Raymond Brennan – that Ryan´s injuries could have been avoided if the consultant obstetrician – Dr Brendan Powell – and staff at St Joseph´s Hospital had acted with greater care, and a cerebral palsy claim for birth injury compensation was made against Dr Powell and the HSE.

Both parties denied the allegations of a failure to act, negligence, a breach of duty by Dr Powell and a breach of contract by the hospital which lead to the brain damage suffered by Ryan but, at the High Court in Dublin, Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard that an interim settlement of cerebral palsy birth injury compensation had been agreed upon without admission of liability.

The €1.7 million temporary payment is for two years to allow for the introduction of a structured payment system and a review of Ryan´s future requirements. Ms Justine Mary Irvine described the interim settlement as ‘in the upper parameters of these types of cases’ as she approved it.

Delayed Hospital Compensation Action Approved in Court

A settlement of delayed hospital compensation action has been approved at the High Court in the case of Brid Courtney – two years after the brain damaged child was awarded an interim payment.

Brid, who is now nine years old and comes from Ardfert in County Kerry, was born in Tralee General Hospital in February 2003 suffering from brain damage after medical staff at the hospital allegedly failed to act on a dramatic change in the foetal heart rate pattern.

As a result of the decrease in heart beat, Brid suffered perinatal asphyxia in the womb and because of the oxygen starvation is now confined to a wheelchair from which she has to be lifted bodily. She is also unable to speak and has to depend on the use of her eyes and facial expressions to communicate with her family.

Following a claim for injury due to delayed hospital action filed through her mother – Deidre – the Health Service Executive agreed to settle the claim without admission of liability and, in November 2010, Mr Justice John Quirke approved an interim payment of 2 million Euros and adjourned the case for two years to allow for the introduction of periodic payments.

However, a system for periodic compensation payments for catastrophic injuries has still not been introduced by the government and – two years after the initial payment of compensation for delayed hospital action was approved – the case returned before the court for the approval of a final settlement.

At the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard testimony from experts that a further 9 million Euros in compensation for delayed hospital action would be required to provide adequate care for Brid through the remainder of her expected life and, as both Brid´s mother and the Health Service Executive agreed with the expert´s assessment, Ms Justice Mary Irvine approved the settlement.

Negligent Brain Surgery Compensation for Former Medical Worker

A former paramedic, who was left badley disabled after doctors removed the wrong part of his brain, has accepted a seven figure settlement of compensation for negligent brain surgery from the NHS Trust responsible for the error.

John Tunney (63) from Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, had the operation in April 2008 after an MRI scan had revealed abnormalities around his pituitary gland. However, instead of taking out the tumour, surgeons took away healthy tissue during the operation which lead to a hemorrhaging in John’s brain .

The mistake left John partly blind and needing 24 hour care. He subsequently learned that the operation had not even been necessary as doctors had not checked out the results of a blood test which would have revealed that John was suffering from prolactinoma – a benign and common pituitary tumour which can be treated with tablets.

After taking legal guidance, John – who was employed by the West Midlands Ambulance Service as a paramedic for 23 years – filed a claim for negligent brain surgery compensation against the University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust and, after an investigation, the NHS Trust admitted liability for the dual error.

John´s solicitors began negotiations with University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust over how much compensation for negligent brain surgery he (John) should be awarded and, although details of the final settlement have not been released, a settlement in excess of one million pounds has been agreed.