Judge Awards Compensation for a Wrongful Death due to Delayed Surgery

A judge at the High Court in Dublin has awarded a widower €165,000 compensation for a wrongful death due to delayed surgery.

On 30th December 2005, Helen Marlow was admitted to St Luke´s General Hospital in Kilkenny, suffering from cramps and abdominal pains. An inflammation of the bowel was diagnosed and the decision was made to treat Helen with antibiotics.

After a few days, when Helen´s condition failed to improve, she underwent an ultra-sound scan that revealed her condition was serious and surgery was required. However, the first attempt to schedule surgery was cancelled because there was no intensive care facility available, and Helen did not have the necessary operation until 8th January.

Four days later Helen died. The cause of Helen´s death was recorded as multiple organ failure due to sepsis, and an investigation into her death found that, had Helen undergone the surgery sooner, there was a strong likelihood that she would have survived.

Helen´s widower – Patrick Malone from Carlow – claimed compensation for a wrongful death due to delayed surgery against consultant doctor George Nessim and the Health Service Executive (HSE), on the grounds that the avoidable loss of his wife had caused significant mental distress to himself and Helen´s six adult children.

Despite the Irish Medical Council finding Dr Nessim guilty on four charges of professional misconduct, the HSE initially denied liability for Helen´s death. Court proceedings were issued, and it was only as the scheduled date of the court hearing approached that the HSE acknowledged the hospital´s failure in its duty of care.

The claim for compensation for a wrongful death due to delayed surgery went to the High Court in Dublin for the assessment of damages. The judge hearing the case – Mr Justice Ryan – commended the two parties for settling a “difficult, painful and tragic case”, before awarding Patrick €165,000 compensation for a wrongful death due to delayed surgery.