A woman has received a six-figure settlement of compensation for inadequate neonatal care which left her suffering from depression and a bacterial infection.
In December 2012, Claire Lalor, from Swords in Co. Dublin, was admitted to the National Maternity Hospital to give birth to her baby. The birth proceeded without incident, and Claire was discharged three days later. In spite of the initial clean bill of health, Claire returned twice within the next two weeks to seek medical attention. She was experiencing pain in her lower abdomen and had a malodorous vagina.
However, on neither visit resulted in Claire having an internal examination. On her second, medical staff suspected that her symptoms may be due to a bacterial infection, and she was prescribed antibiotics. However, the smell became worse and Claire continued to experience severe pain in the region. In January she returned to the hospital and was eventually internally examined. Medical staff discovered that a vaginal swab had been left inside Claire after her labour, and was the cause of her pain. The swab was subsequently removed.
Claire continued to feel pain and discomfort even after the swab was removed. She returned to hospital later that January, when she was discharged after a diagnosis of post-natal depression. Claire’s condition began to grow worse, and she started to suffer from sweating, chills and diarrhoea.
Claire attended Beaumont Hospital to seek further medical attention. After an initial medical investigation, she was diagnosed with a Clostridium difficile infection. It was determined that this was contracted as a result of the incorrect initial diagnosis of an infection. After her recovery, Claire sought legal counsel before making a claim for compensation because of the trauma and pain she suffered as a result of the swab being left inside her.
National Maternity Hospital admitted liability for Claire’s physical injuries. However, they disputed their liability for Claire’s emotional suffering. They argued that her symptoms could all be attributed to post-natal depression, rather than the trauma of the forgotten swab, and thus they were not liable. There was no agreement over the amount of compensation to which Claire was entitled. Due to the contest of liability, the case proceeded to the High Court of Dublin for an assessment of damages.
The case was heard in the High Court by Mr Justice Kevin Cross. The judge agreed with the consensus at the hospital that the difficult labour was a good indicator that Claire suffered from post-natal depression. He also agreed that her continuing symptoms could be attributed to an underlying condition.
However, Judge Cross also stated had Claire received adequate post-natal care, it is highly likely that her recovery from post-natal depression have been much more swift. He also agreed that Claire was “entirely appropriately extremely distressed” by the experience. Claire was then awarded €140,000 for the injuries and infections she sustained because of the forgotten vaginal swab.