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Family Awarded Compensation for Wrongful Death of Woman Due to Medication Overdose

The family of a woman who died due to cardiac arrest caused by medication overdose has been awarded compensation by the HSE.

In December 2009, Margaret Duggan from Screen in County Wexford was admitted to St. Vincent´s Hospital in Dublin. She had been experiencing abdominal pain, but staff at the facility did not considered this to be a serious health complaint. This is inspire of Margaret suffering from multiple sclerosis.

During the following week, Margaret was prescribed what was later deemed an inappropriate amount of sedatives whenever she became upset and agitated. She later died in hospital. An investigation was launched into her death, and her death was attributed to a cardiac arrest caused by medication overdose. It was alleged in the family´s fatal overdose of medication claim, that these doses of sedatives led to Margaret developing aspiration pneumonia.

It was also alleged in the family´s fatal overdose of medication claim that senior medical staff failed to act in an appropriate timeframe once Margaret´s condition had been diagnosed. They claimed that the delay in transferring her to the intensive care unit caused Margaret to suffer a cardiac arrest. Therefore, hospital staff had been negligent in their care of Margaret.
The case was heard at the High Court by Ms Justice Mary Irvine. She heard that Margaret´s widower – William Duggan – and one her daughters had attempted to visit Margaret in hospital on December 19th. However, when they arrived they found her bed had been curtained off. On asking a nurse the reason for this, William Duggan was told that Margaret had died.

William suffered from severe shock at the news, and his condition deteriorated when no explanation for his wife´s death was forthcoming but the hospital asked him for permission to conduct an immediate post-mortem. The post-mortem and subsequent internal investigation by St Joseph´s Hospital established that Margaret would not have died were it not for the negligent administration of the sedatives.

William and his three adult children sought legal counsel for Margaret’s wrongful death. They made a claim for compensation for the fatal overdose of medication against the HSE. Ms Justice Mary Irvine was told that an offer of settlement amounting to €110,000 had been made to the family by the hospital and that they were willing to accept it. Approving the settlement of the fatal overdose of medication claim, the judge said “It must have been very traumatic to arrive in the hospital after her death. I hope as the years go by the loss lessens”.

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