The High Court has awarded a settlement of compensation of €1.75 million to the family of a baby who was left severely disabled due to his mismanaged birth.
On the 6th September 1996, Thomas was born to Ann O’Connor at the Sligo General Hospital. As a CTG trace showed obvious indications of an elevated foetal heart rate, he was diagnosed with foetal distress in utero and his mother was scheduled to have an emergency Caesarean section. In spite of this intervention by medical staff, when he was not breathing when he was born. He was eventually resuscitated using a breathing tube, and was brought to intensive care. However, he suffered a heart attack while on the way to the intensive care unit.
Due to being starved of oxygen twice, Thomas suffered from severe brain damage. He became blind, and is unable to feed himself. He was later diagnosed as a spastic quadriplegic. He is reliant on 24 hour care, and lives in a residential care home in Sligo.
Ann O’Connor, on her son’s behalf, sought legal counsel. She then made the claim against the Sligo General Hospital. In the claim for birth negligence compensation, Ann alleges that the delivery of Thomas and his subsequent resuscitation was negligent. She states there were unnecessary delays of up to four hours in Thomas’ delivery. She also alleges that she was informed by an independent medical professional that the heart attack that Thomas suffered whilst on his way to the ICU was a direct result of medical staff inserting the resuscitation tube too deeply into Thomas’ throat. Therefore, the staff in charge of his birth were acting in a negligent fashion.
The allegations of birth injury negligence were denied by the Health Service Executives. They further disputed Ann’s claim for compensation. The case proceeded to the High Court of Dublin, where it was heard by Mr Justice Kevin Cross. Expert witnesses testified that the CTG trace which showed foetal distress had been discontinued the morning of Thomas’ delivery unnecessarily. Additionally, they said that the resuscitation tube should have been inserted at a depth of 9-10 cm, but instead was put in at 14 cm. This was likely to be a direct cause of Thomas’s heart attack.
The judge was also informed that negotiations between the parties had determined that a settlement of €1.75 million was agreed between the parties, without an admission of liability by the HSE. Judge Cross approved the settlement, stating that the money will be used to pay for Thomas’ care in his residential home. He commented on his delight that the ordeal of claiming compensation was complete for Thomas’ family, and wished them well for the future.