A woman from Dublin has been awarded €140,000 compensation for a swab left inside her after giving birth and the subsequent lack of care she received.
On 24th December 2012, Clare Lalor (30) from Swords in County Dublin gave birth to a healthy child after a difficult labour. Clare was discharged from the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin on 27th December, but returned twice on 2nd January and 9th January due to a pain in her lower abdomen and a terrible smell around her lower body.
On neither of her return visits was Clare examined internally and, on her second return visit, doctors prescribed her antibiotics. It was only on a third visit the following week – by which time the smell had become unbearable – that Clare was examined internally and when it was discovered that a vaginal swab had been left inside during the delivery process.
The swab was removed, but two days later Clare attended the National Maternity Hospital once again suffering from sweating, diarrhoea, chills and a fever. She was temporarily admitted to the hospital for treatment, but then discharged later that day when her symptoms were attributed to post-natal depression.
After she returned home, Clare´s condition deteriorated and her partner took her to the Beaumont Hospital. At the Beaumont Hospital, Clare´s condition was diagnosed as C.difficile – a digestive bacterial infection that had developed due to Clare being unnecessarily prescribed antibiotics at the National Maternity Hospital.
When she was feeling better, Clare sought legal advice and claimed compensation for a swab left inside her – the negligent event that had triggered her illness. The National Maternity Hospital conceded the error, and that the negligent event had resulted in significant discomfort and the C.difficle infection Clare had contracted as a result of the unnecessarily prescribed antibiotics.
However, the National Maternity Hospital contested the extent of psychological injury the was included in Clare´s claim, and argued that her emotional trauma was attributable to post-natal depression rather than any adjustment disorder caused by the swab being left inside her. As no acceptable settlement of compensation for a swab left inside could be negotiated, the case proceeded to the High Court in Dublin for an assessment of damages.
At the High Court, Mr Justice Kevin Cross accepted the hospital´s testimony that a difficult labour preceding the birth of Claire´s child made it more likely that she would suffer from post-natal depression, and that the symptoms of her alleged psychological injury had some origin in her underlying disposition.
However, the Judge Cross ruled that, were it not for the admitted negligence of the National Maternity Hospital, Claire would have recovered from post-natal depression quicker than she had done and would not have the level of psychological injury that she was currently suffering from. Judge Cross found in Clare´s favour and awarded her €140,000 compensation for a swab left inside.