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Girl Receives Compensation for Scarring while Hospital Denies Liability

A young girl is to receive compensation for permanent scarring to her back due to events that happened shortly after her birth, while the hospital still denies liability for her injuries.

In October 2012, Ann Ryan gave birth to a daughter at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin. She was just twenty-five weeks into her pregnancy, and the baby girl was born at just 840 grams. Due to her small birth weight, the baby-named Sophia-was transferred to the Special Care Unit to receive specialist attention. Medical staff inserted various catheters to administer drugs and help with her feeding.

As she was at risk of skin sepsis, the areas where the catheters were inserted were cleaned with chlorhexidine. This was used instead of the regular povidone-iodine, as part of the National Children´s Research Centre´s “SKA trial”. Before Sophia’s birth, Ann agreed for Sophia to participate in this trial on the grounds that her child would not experience any discomfort or side effects.

However, the day after chrlohexidine was applied to the area at risk of sepsis,  hospital staff noticed a large area of redness and a small area of ulceration on Sophia´s back. She underwent immediate medical examination, and the redness was diagnosed as being an adverse reaction to the chlorhexidine.  Sophia was displaying signs of distress and discomfort due to the adverse reaction. Morphine was administered intravenously in an attempt to relieve her pain.

Sophia was administered Fucidim-a cream used to prevent bacterial skin infections-when she was only two days old. This resulted in Sophia suffering a deep dermal skin burn. The Fucidim treatment was discontinued the following day and an alternate cream administered – Duoderm.  The burn marks on Sophia’s skin did not disappear despite further treatment. In May 2014, her mother brought her to the hospital´s consultant paediatric dermatologist. The mark on Sophia’s skin was diagnosed as a scar consistent with a chemical burn. She and her husband sought legal counsel to claim compensation for their daughter’s injury.

On behalf of his daughter, Tom Ryan, claimed compensation for an adverse reaction to antisepsis, alleging that the National Maternity Hospital had been negligent in her treatment. It was due to the hospital´s negligence the affected skin will be permanently discoloured and that she will likely require a skin graft in the future.

The defendants denied liability for Sohpia’s scar. In spite of this denial of liability, the hospital offered to settle the claim for €100,000. As the claim for compensation for an adverse reaction to antisepsis had been made on behalf of a child, the proposed settlement first had to be approved by a judge. The case was brought to the High Court in Dublin and was heard by Mr Justice Richard Humphries.

The judge was told the details of Sophia´s treatment after her premature birth. After hearing that Sophia spent 135 days in hospital after her birth, but has suffered no developmental delays due to her experience, the judge approved the settlement of compensation for an adverse reaction to antisepsis plus costs. The settlement will now be paid into an interest-yielding court fund until Sophia reaches the age of eighteen.

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