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Consultant Obstetrician Found Negligent in Cerebral Palsy Case

A consultant obstetrician has been found guilty of negligence in the case of a baby being born with cerebral palsy.

In November 2001, Roisin Conroy was born at the Midland Regional Hospital in Portloaise . Her mother-Mary Conroy of Portlaoise, County Laois-had sought medical attention at the clinic of her private consultant obstetrician, Dr John Corristine four days earlier, as she believed that her waters had broken. Staff at the clinic had sent Mary home, assuring her that her waters had not in fact broken. However, three days after attended the clinic, and following an ultrasound at the clinic, Mary insisted she be admitted into hospital as she was concerned about the health of her unborn child.

A CTG scan conducted at the hospital failed to indicate any sign of contractions, and Mary was advised to take a bath. However, there was insufficient hot water was available at the hospital. Therefore, Dr Corristine prescribed Mary with some medicine to induce labour.

When Roisin was born the following morning, she suffered seizures soon after her birth and was transferred to a neo-natal unit in Dublin. Dr Corristine was not present during the labour, or at the birth. Despite the specialist attention that Roisin received, her condition failed to improve. She was later diagnosed with dyskinetic cerebral palsy. She is permanently physically disabled and cannot communicate verbally. She relies on eye movement for communication with her parents.

Mary blamed herself for Roisin´s condition, and insisted on having her next two children delivered by Caesarean Section. Both Mary and her husband Kevin gave up work to look after Roisin. The hospital had told them that nothing could have been done to avoid the tragedy and that the couple had just been unlucky, and they believed this narrative.

In spite of blaming themselves, the couple sought legal counsel. An investigation was launched into the circumstances Roisin´s birth, which resulted in investigators finding evidence of negligence against both the hospital and the obstetric consultant. Kevin and Mary then made a claim for cerebral palsy against both the Health Service executive (HSE) and Dr Corristine on their daughter´s behalf.

Both the defendants denied their responsibilities for Roisin´s injuries for almost two years. Due to the despute in liability, a court hearing was scheduled. However, five weeks before a scheduled court hearing ,the hospital and Dr Corristine admitted that errors had been made in the management of Mary´s pregnancy which led to Roisin suffering birth injuries.

An interim payment of compensation for cerebral palsy amounting to €2.3 million was negotiated between the parties. As the compensation was to be paid to a minor, a High Court judge had to approve the settlement. Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard the case regarding the interim payment of compensation for cerebral palsy, and approved the settlement.
The family also heard an apology read to them by an HSE representative and Dr Corristine, after which Ms Justice Mary Irvine adjourned the case for two years so that an assessment of Roisin´s future needs can be made and to allow time for the introduction of a system of structured compensation payments.

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