Compensation for Brain Damage due to Hospital Negligence Approved at Court

The High Court in Ireland has approved a €1.75 million settlement of compensation for brain damage due to hospital negligence after a four-week hearing.

On 6th September 1996, Thomas O´Connor was born at the Sligo General Hospital showing no signs of life due to being deprived of oxygen in the womb. Thomas was resuscitated and rushed to the hospital´s intensive care unit, but he suffered a heart attack on his way from the delivery theatre and his brain was deprived of oxygen for a second time until he was resuscitated again.

Thomas suffered terrible brain damage due to the lack of oxygen. Now eighteen years of age, Thomas is a spastic quadriplegic, blind, and has to be fed through a tube. He is cared for full-time in a residential facility close to his family´s home in Collooney in County Sligo, where his mother can visit him every day.

Through his mother – Ann O´Connor – Thomas claimed compensation for brain damage due to hospital negligence against the Sligo General Hospital and the Health Service Executive. It was alleged in the legal action that staff had failed to monitor the foetal heartrate prior to his birth, and that the heart attack was attributable to ineffective ventilation after the first time he was resuscitated.

The Sligo General Hospital and the Health Service Executive both denied negligence and contested the allegations. Consequently, the claim for compensation for brain damage due to hospital negligence went to the Dublin High Court where it was heard by Mr Justice Kevin Cross.

During the course of the four-week hearing, Judge Cross was told by an expert witness that the CTG trace monitoring Thomas´ foetal heartrate had been discontinued on the morning of his birth despite there being evidence of foetal distress. It was claimed that the failure to monitor his condition properly delayed Thomas´ birth by up to four hours and, had the foetal distress been identified and acted upon sooner, Thomas may have been spared his devastating birth injuries.

The judge also heard expert testimony that the tube used to ventilate Thomas had been inserted to a depth of 14cms. The depth it should have been inserted to was between 9cms and 10cms and the consequence of this alleged negligence was that Thomas was not ventilated effectively – causing the heart attack which exacerbated the degree of brain damage sustained by Thomas.

At the end of the hearing, the Health Service Executive agreed to a €1.75 million settlement of compensation for brain damage due to hospital negligence without an admission of liability. After being told that the settlement will be used to pay for Thomas´ continued care at the residential home in Collooney, Judge Cross approved the settlement – commenting he was delighted the legal ordeal had come to an end for the O´Connor family.