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HSE Admits Liability in Wrongful Death of Newborn

The HSE has admitted liability for the wrongful death of a newborn boy after an independent investigation found that medical staff at the Cavan General Hospital were guilty of several counts of medical negligence.

In November 2012, Fiona Watters was pregnant with her first baby. She she was admitted to the Cavan General Hospital on the 20th of that month after feeling a series of regular contractions. Her waters broke nearly two days later. In order to assist Fiona with labour, medical staff administered Prostaglandin, a commonly used drug.

Initially, the drug failed to assist Fiona. Therefore, as the day progressed, she was given higher and higher doses of the drug. That evening, an attempt was made at a natural delivery. After an hour of trying, the baby was no closer to being born. Concerned about the difficult birth, the midwives at the facility called Fiona’s consultant obstetrician, Dr Salah Aziz. They informed him that the baby was not yet visible. Furthermore, after a series of scans were taken there were indicators that the baby was suffering foetal distress.

When Mr Aziz arrived at the labour ward in the hospital, he discovered that another Caesarean Section was being carried out in the only out-of-hours theatre and therefore emergency surgery could not be performed on Fiona. He tried both a forceps and vacuum delivery to no avail. When the operating theatre eventually became available, Mr Aziz performed an emergency Caesarean section on Fiona. Her baby, names Jamie, was delivered shortly after, yet he was in very poor condition.

The baby was quickly transferred to a special care unit in the Rotunda Hospital, Dublin, for specialist treatment. In spite of the best attempts of medical staff, he died just two days later in his mother’s arms. An investigation ensued looking into the circumstances of Jamie’s death. This initial investigation was stopped by the High Court in 2013 when Dr Aziz pointed out that the investigators appointed by the HSE were not following proper procedures for investigating the case.

Ms Watters and her partner, Francis Flynn, had received an advanced copy of the report and sought legal counsel. After this, they proceeded to make a claim for medical negligence compensation against the Cavan General Hospital and the HSE.

The defendants denied all liability for Jamie’s death for a year after the claim was made. They ordered another investigation to be carried out to attribute liability. This team was composed of an independent review team, as there were two more deaths of children at the Cavan General Hospital since Jamie’s birth.

In December 2014, it was determined that Jamie’s death was caused by medical misadventure. The increasingly large doses of Prostaglandin, Dr Aziz’s failure to notify the registrar of Jamie’s imminent birth and the fact that there was only one out-of-hours theatre at the hospital were all listed to be contributing factors.

The State Claims Agency and Jamie’s parent’s legal teams began negotiations in order for the claim of compensation to be settled. Due to the trauma sustained by Jamie’s parents, a package of €70,000 was agreed upon. The case was heard in the High Court in Dublin by Mr Justice Richard Humphreys, who approved the settlement.

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