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Vicky Phelan & CervicalCheck, A Personal Perspective

By Cian O'Carroll Sunday, 29th April 2018 | 0 comments
Filed under: Medical Negligence, Personal Injuries.
This article was printed in The Sunday independent, Sunday, 29th April, 2018.
We ended last week with an important result for a young woman who suffered a brain injury in the course of her birth 27 years to the day earlier. The case was quite unusual for two reasons. Firstly our client was born in what was described as 'relatively good condition' meaning that while she required some resuscitation, she was not intubated. Our team of medical experts successfully countered the HSE argument that this proved her injury was caused before her delivery and was... therefore not due to the poor standard of care that she and her mother received at St Luke's Hospital, Kilkenny. The second unusual feature was that while our client suffered a brain injury and an intellectual deficit, she has no physical disability and does not have cerebral palsy. Once again, our experts argued strongly that medical research has changed the general understanding of how such birth elated hypoxic ischaemic injuries present themselves. They showed from research that there is no requirement that an child with an intellectual disability also has a physical injury to meet the criteria for negligently inflicted brain injury in the course of a baby's delivery.
In this series of articles, I am looking at birth related injuries affecting the mother as opposed to the baby.  The vast majority of mothers give birth to healthy babies without any harm to the mother. On some occasions however, the outcome for the mother is not so good with injury occurring that may lead to short, medium or even long term consequence. In some of these cases, the maternal injury or poor outcome was caused by neglect and it is to that neglect – and only in cases of clearly proven neglect, that the law addresses the issue of compensation.
In this series of articles, we are looking at birth injuries affecting the mother as opposed to the baby.  The vast majority of mothers give birth to healthy babies without any harm to the mother. On some occasions however, the outcome for the mother is not so good with injury occurring that may lead to short, medium or even long term consequence. In some, but certainly not all of these cases, the maternal injury was caused by neglect and it is to that neglect – and only in cases of clearly proven neglect, that the law addresses the issue of compensation.
When you hear about birth injuries in the news it is almost always in relation to the baby. Horrific stories of unnecessary harm to babies sometimes seem to fill the news pages. We are all sadly too familiar with the sight of parents emerging from the Four Courts in the presence of their child, often severely disabled with cerebral palsy or similar brain injury having secured a multi-million euro care package.  . While these ‘baby’ birth injury cases quite properly deserve the awards the receive in the courts and the attention they attract in the media unfortunately in our experience birth injuries are not however only confined to babies and quite often the forgotten victim in the courts and in the media is the Mum. 

Duty of Candour: The Obligation to Come Clean

By Sean Finn Tuesday, 10th November 2015 | 0 comments
Filed under: Medical Negligence.
There has been extensive coverage in the media over recent years highlighting cases of clinical negligence, on an almost daily basis.  It would appear however, that our health system has not learned from its mistakes, particularly in our hospitals where cases of negligence are very often not disclosed to those who should be the first to know.  This appalling practice is maintained as a means for our hospitals to avoid accountability and the burden of fair treatment to those which they are designed to protect.  This practice exposes patients to potentially catastrophic and long lasting damage by simply brushing it under the carpet.  It is also and perhaps somewhat ironically, pushing the national body responsible for our hospitals, the Health Service Executive (HSE) down a road which they refuse to alter. 
Once again I find myself writing about the excellent work that Prime Time has been doing on issues relating to poor standard patient safety and care. Last week their follow up story on Portlaoise hospital focused on just three families and how their lives have been so badly damaged by the care they received. It is remarkable how effective it is to talk of the human story rather than focus on statistics and numbers. These three stories can tell us nothing of the true incidence of patient harm in our hospitals but they have the power to create change for good because we are all capable of being moved by human loss and tragedy. If you are interested in these issues and missed the program, you should watch it back on the RTE player.
The publication last week of the HIQA report into patient safety at Midland Regional Hospital, Portlaoise has the potential to mark an historic watershed for patient safety in Ireland. Were that to happen, no doubt it would offer some consolation to the parents and families of the at least 8 babies who needlessly died there in recent years. More importantly, it would see a shift in focus by hospital managers away from a budget-led approach which to date has seen the issue of patient safety and health outcomes receive little attention when key decisions about the health service are being made.

Medical Negligence - Doing Right By Those We Harm

By Cian O'Carroll Saturday, 21st March 2015 | 0 comments
Filed under: Medical Negligence, Personal Injuries.
The very tragic case of Tadgh Costello last week threw into perspective several problems that face this country in the way we deal with medical negligence and the legal actions that of necessity arise from it.
Bedsores, more properly known as pressure ulcers or pressure sores, are a type of injury that affects areas of the skin and underlying tissue. They are caused when the affected area of skin is placed under too much pressure.
Legal fees – two small words with the power to frighten a multitude and damage the important relationship of trust between client and solicitor.
There are far more people killed by negligence in our hospitals that die on our roads and yet we hear almost nothing about it. Why is that? It seems that almost every type of accident that can befall a person and that could be attributed to the wrong or negligence of another is investigated by one or another state safety agency except medicine. We have the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, the Road Safety Authority, the Rail Accident Investigation Unit, the Irish Aviation Authority’s Air Accidents Investigation Unit, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, the Health & Safety Authority and on and on. Every non-medical critical event gets investigated so that lessons may be learned. Why then don’t we investigate accidents in medicine, and lets leave out the majority of the 80,000 or so adverse events that happen in our state-funded hospitals each year – let’s just focus on the top 1% of those being the mistakes that cause catastrophic injuries or serious harm up to and including death.
There are far more people killed by negligence in our hospitals that die on our roads and yet we hear almost nothing about it. Why is that? It seems that almost every type of accident that can befall a person and that could be attributed to the wrong or negligence of another is investigated by one or another state safety agency except medicine. We have the Marine Casualty Investigation Board, the Road Safety Authority, the Rail Accident Investigation Unit, the Irish Aviation Authority’s Air Accidents Investigation Unit, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland, the Health & Safety Authority and on and on. Every non-medical critical event gets investigated so that lessons may be learned. Why then don’t we investigate accidents in medicine, and lets leave out the majority of the 80,000 or so adverse events that happen in our state-funded hospitals each year – let’s just focus on the top 1% of those being the mistakes that cause catastrophic injuries or serious harm up to and including death.
Last month I wrote about the revelations of gross failures by medical and nursing staff at maternity unit of Midland Regional Hospital in Portlaoise. Sadly since then, further revelations by RTE’s Prime Time tell us of a fifth baby to die at that unit due to a similar lack of care and I think what we can fairly call a lack of interest in providing even ‘acceptable’ standards of care by the staff and management there.
The RTE Primetime investigation ‘Fatal Failures’ has shone a spotlight on a series of newborn infant deaths, 4 in all, occurring in the one hospital, Midland Regional in Portlaoise, and all resulting from similar mistakes in the care of mother and baby through the period of labour. The public and political reaction has been one of shock, alarm and anger that one hospital could turn a blind eye on critical failures; not just failing, but refusing to learn from expert review that its obstetric practices were unsafe. The reaction of the medical and nursing/midwifery professions seems to be rather more muted.

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