A young boy has received compensation from the State Claims Agency for a birth injury which left him suffering from cerebral palsy.
In July 2007, Dylan Gaffney (now six years of age) from Kilcohan Park in Waterford was born at the Waterford Regional Hospital. At the time of birth, medical staff desired him as being “in a poor condition”. Due to complications just before his birth, his mother-Jean-delivered him via an emergency Caesarean Section. Dylan was born not being able to breath, but no paediatrician was immediately available to resuscitate him.
Jean Gaffney had earlier requested a Caesarean Section delivery for Dylan;. This was due to her first child being born by an emergency Caesarean section after she struggled through 51 hours of labour. Before becoming pregnant with Dylan, she had miscarried a second child. However, her obstetrician had suggested a natural birth would be preferable. This is in spite of him taking an ultrasound just before Dylan´s birth indicating that he weighed nine pounds and four ounces, making him significantly larger than average. Doctors should have been aware that this would cause trouble if a natural birth were attempted.
The ultrasound was conducted two days prior to Dylan´s birth when Jean had attended the Waterford Regional Hospital because she believed her waters had broken. She was assured that everything was proceeding normally. An antenatal appointment was scheduled for five days later; but, on the morning of the 22nd July, Jean went into spontaneous labour and was admitted into the hospital.
Jean was given the drug oxytocic to stimulate her contractions and told to start pushing. In the High Court, Jean´s solicitor stated that the directions given to Jean were inappropriate in the circumstances, and a Caesarean should have been performed straight away. Instead, hospital staff waited until after 2.00pm in the afternoon before transferring Jean to theatre to deliver her child.
Unfortunately, due to the significant delay in his birth, Dylan had been starved of oxygen. He was born severely brain damaged, and was later diagnosed with cerebral palsy and other birth injuries.
Jean sought legal advice to claim compensation on behalf of her son. She later made a claim against the HSE for birth injuries. Jean and her solicitor also wrote the State Claims Agency in June 2009 with evidence of the hospital negligence that resulted in Dylan´s condition compiled by an independent medical expert.
Despite the evidence clearly indicating that Dylan´s birth injuries could have been avoided and were attributable to hospital negligence before, during and after his delivery, the State Claims Agency failed to acknowledged the hospital´s responsibility for Dylan´s condition and refused to consider Jean´s claim against the HSE for birth injuries.
Due to the contest in liability, court orders were issues. The court heard that Jean and her partner – Thomas Hayes – put their lives to one side in order to care for Dylan. It was only shortly before Jean´s claim against the HSE for birth injuries was due to be heard in court that liability for Dylan´s cerebral palsy was admitted, and negotiations started to find a suitable settlement.
The case was heard by Ms Justice Mary Irvine at the High Court in Dublin. The judge was told that an agreement had been reached for Dylan to receive a lump sum payment of €8.5 million. After hearing the circumstances of the claim against the HSE for birth injuries, the judge approved the settlement; but criticised the conduct of the State Claims Agency and Health Service Executive for the delay in admitting liability, thus causing additional stress for Dylan and his family.