Tag: Medical Negligence in Ireland

Claim for a Hospital Fall Injury Heard in Court

A woman, who fractured her spine after falling out of bed, has successfully made a claim for a hospital fall injury at a hearing of the Circuit Civil Court.

The woman – who lives in Finglas, Dublin – made her claim for a hospital fall injury following her accident at the Mater Hospital in April 2015. The woman had attended the hospital as a day patient for a routine gastroscopy procedure. However, as she was recovering from the procedure, she attempted to get out of bed and fell – suffering a fractured spine.

Her injury resulted in an extended stay at the Mater Hospital before being transferred to the Incorporated Orthopaedic Hospital in Clontarf for specialised treatment. She remained in Clontarf Hospital for three months before being removed by her daughter who was concerned about her wellbeing.

After seeking legal advice, the woman made a claim for a hospital fall injury against the Mater Hospital; alleging she had been left alone to recover after the procedure, which – as she had previously been hospitalised following a fall at her home – was in contravention of the hospital´s own falls prevention policy.

Her claim went to the Circuit Civil Court, where it was heard by Judge James O´Donohoe. At the hearing, the judge was told the accident had a serious effect on the plaintiff´s quality of life. Rather than cope with most things by herself, as she had done prior to her accident, the woman now had to wear a lumbar brace and walks with the assistance of a Zimmer frame.

An expert witness on behalf of the plaintiff testified the hospital had failed in its duty of care to the plaintiff by failing to adhere to its falls prevention policy and a representative of the hospital explained how the accident happened. However, the hospital´s representative could not tell Judge O´Donohoe why the nurse who first attended the plaintiff after her fall had not been called to give evidence.

Commenting that the nurse´s absence “speaks volumes” the judge found in the plaintiff´s favour and awarded her €58,500 compensation in settlement of her claim for a hospital fall injury. The judge granted a request to place a stay on the award pending a possible appeal, but ordered that €30,000 of the compensation settlement was paid immediately.

Sanofi Acknowledges Valproate Birth Defect Claims

The drug manufacturer Sanofi has issued a statement acknowledging the valproate birth defect claims being made against the company in a French class action.

The drug responsible for prompting the valproate birth defects claims is Depakine – an anti-epilepsy drug that has been available in Ireland since 1983 under the trade name Epilim. Epilim contains an active ingredient – sodium valproate – that stabilises electrical activity in the brain and has therefore also been prescribed for bipolar disorder, migraine and other chronic pain conditions.

When taken by pregnant mothers, the risk exists that the sodium valproate will be absorbed as valproic acid in the bloodstream and affect the health of their unborn child. In Ireland, children born after being exposed to valproic acid can suffer from spina bifida, autism and a range of congenital and development issues under the umbrella term “foetal valproate syndrome”.

The risks were first identified in France in the 1980s – where Depakine had been prescribed since 1967 – but no formal announcement was made to the medical profession by Sanofi until 2006. Even then, few medical professionals were aware of the side effects until France´s social affairs inspectorate – IGAS – investigated valproate birth defect claims in the Rhone-Alpes region last year.

IGAS´ research revealed that around 450 babies in the region had been born with congenital defects between 2006 and 2014 after being exposed to valproic acid. The report called for a warning to be printed on the outside of each box of Epilim advising pregnant women not to take the drug, and also promoted a much deeper study of the risks by France’s National Agency for the Safety of Medicines (ANSM).

The results of that study were recently released following an investigation into the health of 8,701 children, born to women known to have taken Depakine while pregnant between 2007 and 2014. The results revealed that up to 4,100 children had been born with “severe malformations” and many hundreds more had died in the womb or been delivered stillborn.

Following the release of the study, Sanofi issued a statement in which the company said: “We are aware of the painful situation confronting the families of children showing difficulties that may have a link with the anti-epileptic treatment of their mother during pregnancy.” However, the statement has not satisfied parents of the children affected by the side effects of Epilim, and they have started a class action of valproate birth defect claims to recover compensation for their children.

In Ireland, Epilim is still sold without a warning in large type on the front of the packet, and it is not known how many children have been born with birth defects due to being exposed to valproic acid. If a member of your family has been affected by this tragic situation, and you would like to know more about valproate birth defect claims, you should speak with a solicitor at the first possible opportunity.

Plaintiff to Pay Costs of a Court Hearing despite Successful Claim

A plaintiff has been ordered to pay a proportion of the costs of a court hearing despite making a successful claim for medical negligence against the HSE.

Madeline Wright won her claim for medical negligence against the Health Service Executive (HSE) in May, after it was determined that there had been an avoidable and unacceptable delay in the treatment she received following a motorcycle accident in 2005.

However, further claims made against the Misericordiae and Sligo General Hospitals, and her orthopaedic surgeon – Mr Keith Synott – were found to be unsubstantiated, and considered by Ms Justice Mary Irvine to have taken up almost 80% of the courts time.

In a departure from the legal principal of “costs follow the event” the judge said although “[Madeline] must be deemed to be the overall winner of proceedings in which the defendants denied any liability” the claims of medical negligence were proven in only one leg of the court action and Madeline should be responsible for some of the costs of a court hearing.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine explained her position thus: “Just because a plaintiff has one good point they should not, to my mind, be permitted to litigate a myriad of others and have the court make an order requiring the successful defendant on such issues to pay for that luxury. There must be some sanction in terms of costs should this occur”.

The judge acknowledged that ordering Madeline to pay 80% costs of a court hearing was too harsh due to the complexity of the claim and – as there was no precedent in this type of litigation – that a reduction of 35% should act as a deterrent to any future plaintiff who may attempt to attach unsubstantiated allegations to a genuine claim.

Claim for Loss due to Lack of Hospital Treatment Resolved Out of Court

A family have resolved their claim for loss due to lack of hospital treatment out of court following the death of 69-year-old Eileen Maloney at Mayo General Hospital.

The family made their claim following an investigation into the circumstances of Eileen´s death in February 2009. Eileen had been admitted to the Mayo General Hospital on Sunday 1st February, complaining of an acute abdominal pain, and although an X-ray revealed a small obstruction in her bowel, no review of the x-ray was conducted to check for a perforated bowel.

Eileen – who was suffering from cancer at the time – underwent a CT scan on the following Friday (6th February) which revealed a tumour had developed in her large intestine; but again a perforated bowel was not considered to be the cause of her ongoing pain – allegedly due to a lack of experienced doctors being available – and surgery was not scheduled until the next week (12th February).

Eileen died five days after her operation, and the family claim they were informed that Eileen would have survived the surgery and lived for a further six months had her condition been diagnosed and acted upon correctly. With this information, the family made a claim for loss due to lack of hospital treatment against the Mayo General Hospital and the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The claim for loss due to lack of hospital treatment was initially denied by the HSE but, at the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Michael Peart heard that an out-of-court settlement had been agreed without admission of liability that would see the family receive €50,000 in compensation for their loss. After hearing the circumstances of Eileen´s death, the judge approved the settlement – extending his sympathies to the family and saying that this was a “very, very tragic case”.

Medical Negligence Claims

Medical negligence claims for compensation are acknowledged to be the most complex of all personal injury claims in Ireland and due to this the Injuries Board has no remit to process applications for assessment of medical negligence compensation.

The Injuries Board will return any assessments it receives in error, and potential plaintiffs who have suffered a loss, an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition due to the negligence of a medical practitioner will have to engage the service of a solicitor to pursue their claim.

Seeking legal advice about medical negligence claims can be disconcerting for a patient who is still suffering an injury from the negligent treatment – or lack of treatment – they received, but plaintiffs should not be discouraged from speaking with a solicitor at the first possible opportunity.

The process for claiming compensation for medical negligence usually starts with the patient (or a family member representing the patient) having an informal discussion with a solicitor about the circumstances of the injury and what the consequences of the injury have been.

If the solicitor feels that there is a claim for medical negligence compensation which has a high probability of success, he or she will ask the patient for permission to access their medical notes and these will be reviewed by an independent medical expert.

If the medical expert agrees that “under the circumstances and at the time” the loss, injury or deterioration of an existing condition could have been avoided with greater care, the expert will provide the solicitor with the evidence of negligence that the solicitor needs to support a “Letter of Claim”.

The “Letter of Claim“ is then sent to the negligent medical practitioner, hospital or private medical facility, advising them that a compensation claim for medical negligence is being made against them and, depending on the strength of evidence collected, inviting the negligent party to make an offer to settle.

Medical negligence claims in Ireland are often rigorously defended, and it may take some time before a claim for medical negligence compensation is resolved. However, court action is rarely required when there is sufficient evidence of negligence, as the party responsible for causing the injury is unlikely to want court costs added to the settlement of a claim made against them.

It is important to note that no two medical negligence claims are identical – even when the nature of the injury or its cause has happened many times before. Each claim for medical negligence compensation should be assessed on its individual merits and in relation to the personal circumstances of the plaintiff.

There are many different ways in which an injury due to medical negligence can affect a plaintiff – from the physical and emotional trauma they experience to the non-financial changes they have to make to their lives.

Any settlement of compensation for medical negligence should also take into account all the financial implications of an injury including the cost of care to look after the injured party and any income they may have lost due to the avoidable mistake made by a medical practitioner.

Therefore, it is important that an assessment of a plaintiff´s right to claim compensation for medical negligence is conducted at the earliest possible opportunity and why you should speak with an experienced medical negligence solicitor if you or a loved one have suffered an injury, a loss or the deterioration of an existing condition due to the poor professional performance of a medical practitioner.

GP Over-prescription Claim Investigated

The Medical Council is looking at a number of GP over-prescription claims against a Dublin GP who allegedly over-prescribed psychoactive benzodiazepines.

It is claimed that Dr Mohammed Ahmed Khan, with a practice on Wicklow Street, Dublin, prescribed up to four times the recommended dosage of drugs such as Valium to patients suffering from anxiety and depression. The Medical Council are also looking into allegations that Dr Khan failed to make adequate enquiries as to whether any of the patients he was prescribing these drugs to were already being treated by another doctor.

Dr Khan has also been accused of poor professional performance due to his alleged failure to refer some of his patients with a dependency on benzodiazepines to drug treatment centres or specialist substance misuse practitioners and due to his reliance on prescription drugs where an alternative form of treatment may have been more beneficial to the patient or in their best interests.

The Medical Council is the regulatory body for doctors to practise medicine in the Republic of Ireland.  Its statutory role, as outlined in the Medical Practitioners Act 2007, is to protect the public by promoting and further ensuring high standards of professional conduct and professional education, training and competence among registered medical practitioners.