Judge Approves Interim Compensation for Birth Injuries Due to Hospital Negligence

A judge at Dublin High Court has approved an interim settlement of compensation for birth injuries due to hospital negligence in favour of a 14-year-old girl.

On October 11th 1999, Mary Malee needed to be resuscitated after being born by emergency Caesarean section at the Mayo General Hospital. Mary´s birth had been delayed by the non-availability of a paediatric consultant and the failure to communicate the severity of her mother´s condition. Due to being deprived of oxygen in the womb, and the delay in her delivery, Mary suffered brain damage and was subsequently diagnosed as suffering from cerebral palsy.

Through her mother – Maura Malee of Swinford, County Mayo – Mary claimed compensation for birth injuries due to hospital negligence against the Mayo General Hospital and the Health Service Executive (HSE). In the claim it was alleged that there had been a failure to intervene and conduct a Caesarean section in a timely manner, and a failure to ensure the presence of a paediatric consultant when it was known that the foetus was suffering distress in the womb and likely to need resuscitation.

Mayo General Hospital and the HSE both denied their liability for Mary´s birth injuries; but an interim settlement of compensation for birth injuries due to hospital negligence had been agreed amounting to €1.5 million, with a further assessment to be conducted within two years. As the claim for compensation for birth injuries due to medical negligence had been made on behalf of a child, the settlement first had to be approved by a judge to ensure that it was in Mary´s best interests.

At Dublin High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard that Mary was Maura Malee´s fourth child, and that prior to Mary´s birth Maura had attended the consultant paediatrician who had delivered her three previous children. The paediatrician had told Maura that he would not be able to attend her at Mary´s delivery as he was about to start treatment for cancer, but he would make arrangements for her to be transferred to the care of another consultant.

Maura continued that she had seen her GP the following day and was told to go to hospital immediately as she was exhibiting symptoms of pre-eclampsia. On arrival at the hospital; Maura had been transferred to the labour ward and underwent a CTG shortly before 6.00am. The scan showed a deceleration of the foetal heart rate and the substitute consultant was called. When he arrived at shortly before 7.00am, Maura´s condition was not communicated properly and the Caesarean operation did not take place until after 7.20am.

The court heard that, had it been possible to commence the birth earlier, Mary´s injuries could have been avoided and – after a statement had been read out by Mary in which she commented “It would have been appreciated had the HSE/Mayo General Hospital said they were sorry” – Judge Irvine approved the interim settlement of compensation for birth injuries due to hospital negligence and adjourned the hearing for three years.