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We were all delighted this week to help our client Gillian achieve such a good outcome to her case arising from receiving a pair of defective DePuy ASR Metal on Metal hips. While we have been progressing large numbers of similar cases to trial and settlement over the past two years, this was the first case in Ireland, indeed in Europe, that has gone all the way to judgment.
I have covered the issue of the defective DePuy hip implants on a few occasions over the last 2 years, readers may be familiar with the issue which affects just over 3000 Irish patients, all of whom have had to undergo regular reviews since late 2010 where their orthopaedic consultants look for signs of failure in the implant which in a great many cases has already led to major hip surgeries to replace the defective metal components with more traditional ceramic devices.
This week saw the publication of the latest annual report from the Injuries Board and as usual it was heralded by the well-oiled public relations machine that the Board employs. The Injuries Board is supposed to be an independent process through which injured persons can have entitlement to compensation assessed. In reality however, its independence is at best questionable and each year the publication of its annual report gives us a chance to see its true colours.  
‘Tell the truth and shame the devil’, ‘honesty is the best policy’, ‘the truth shall set you free’; it might all sound easy when we are teaching our children the importance of honesty in life, but as adults, we all experience moments when our ability to confront the truth in an open and frank way gets tested. For healthcare providers, the challenge of coming clean with a patient who has been harmed by his or her care is probably the toughest morality test of all.
Since the August 2010 recall of the defective ASR hip implants made by DePuy Orthopaedics, patients with artificial hips here in the Ireland have become familiar with the concerns surrounding issue. It has since become clear however that it is not just the DePuy ASR implants that are causing harm and that many other patients are now at risk of injury from defective hip implants. Unfortunately patients in Ireland have been kept in the dark about these problems while their UK counterparts are undergoing annual check-ups and receiving relevant information about the threat to their health.
On admission to hospital for surgery you are warned of the possible risks and complications connected with any procedure. These range from increased pain and anaesthesia complications to infection and blood clots. More often than not, the patient emerges from the operating theatre better off and in an improved state of health, however frightening statistics have emerged recently from The State Claims Agency identifying a large number of incidents in which patients in Irish hospitals have been victims of serious surgical system errors. Among the adverse events were 62 cases where surgeons marked incorrect body parts for surgery, 400 foreign objects such as swabs or surgical implements left inside patients after surgery, 1,000 surgeries where the incorrect patient medical records were referred to and 365 patients who had incorrect identity bands attached to their wrist when they arrived in theatre for surgery. Under the Medical Practitioners Act 2007, the Medical Council of Ireland are obliged to “protect the public by promoting and better ensuring high standards of professional conduct and professional education, training and competence among registered medical practitioners.” This implies that we should be confident in and willing to place our absolute trust in our medical professionals to carry out their duty with the highest possible standard of excellence. Despite the complex system of safety measures in place in our hospitals to ensure patients are treated with the highest standard of care, the incidence of surgical system error in Ireland is still excessive. The vast majority of surgeries are carried out successfully, but occasionally mistakes do occur and some surgical errors can have catastrophic effects for the patient. Research from the United States tells us that patients who are injured as a result of a mistake in the course of being operated on are seven times more likely to subsequently die in hospital. Surgical error is also the eighth leading cause of death in the US and results in 100,000 fatalities every year.
Recently I was reading the latest Road Safety Authority (RSA) report on road accident statistics. The 2010 RSA Report is their most recent and it looks back on a decade of road safety improvements. From the statistics, two things jumped out at me. The first is the extraordinary reduction in the number of people killed on our road each year. In 2001 411 people were killed on Irish roads, by 2010, that annual toll had come down to 212.
Over the last 2 weeks, studies in the UK have radically changed our understanding of the issues surrounding the defective DePuy ASR hip implant from both a medical and a legal perspective.
Earlier this year, the Irish Medicines Board (IMB) confirmed that 33 reported unintended pregnancies have occurred to women using the contraceptive device Implanon since it was licensed in Ireland in 1999. In the UK, where over the same period the device has been administered 1 million times, 584 unintended pregnancies have been reported.

Medical Negligence today in Ireland

By Cian O' Carroll Tuesday, 11th October 2011 | 0 comments
Filed under: Medical Negligence, Medical Product Liability.
In the first article in this series, I discussed the ongoing scandal of the DePuy defective hip implants that have left thousands here in the southeast facing either major surgery or years of ongoing checkups wondering when or whether they will also suffer the pain and loss of mobility that a failed hip implant will bring.
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