A High Court judge has approved an interim settlement of compensation in the case of a young girl who suffered from catastrophic birth injuries.
In November 2004, Isabelle Sheehan from Mallow in County Cork was delivered by emergency Caesarean Section at the Bon Secours Maternity Hospital. Her mother, Catherine, had had a blood test earlier that day, and the results which had revealed a sudden increase in the presence of antibodies.
Although the antibodies would have been in conflict with those of Isabelle´s father – Colm – Catherine Sheehan´s paediatric consultant had failed to refer Catherine to an expert in foetal medicine. As a result of this negligence and lack of further medical intervention, Isabelle was born with severe spastic quadriplegic cerebral palsy. She has been left reliant on care from her parents, and will remain disabled for life.
On Isabelle´s behalf, Catherine Sheehan sought legal counsel. She made a claim for compensation for failing to refer a patient to a specialist. In the claim, she alleged that, had an expert in foetal medicine seen the results of the blood test in good time, Isabelle would not have been born with such devastating birth injuries.
A court hearing was scheduled for October 2011. At the hearing, the paediatric consultant – Dr David Corr – admitted that he had made a mistake by failing to refer Catherine to specialist and, on that occasion, Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill approved an initial settlement of compensation in the amount of €1.9 million.
Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O’Neill adjourned the original hearing for two years to allow for a structured compensation payment system to be introduced. However, the government has failed to legislate for such a scheme. Thus, with no such facility yet in place, the case was heard again by Mr Justice Kevin Cross at the High Court for approval of another interim settlement.
Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told that a further interim settlement of compensation for failing to refer a patient to a specialist amounting to €635,000 had been agreed to pay for the care Isabelle will need for the next two years – by which time it is hoped that a more suitable solution is available.
After hearing that Isabelle is “bright and intelligent”, and keeping up with children in her mainstream national school class with help from an assistant, Mr Justice Kevin Cross approved the second settlement of compensation for failing to refer a patient to a specialist, and adjourned the case for a further two years.