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Brain-damaged woman receives €4 million settlement from HSE

The claims were fully denied and the settlement was made without admission of liability by the HSE.

Image: Kevin Higgins/Wikimedia

THE HIGH COURT has approved a €4 million settlement in favour of a 27-year-old brain damaged woman who had brought a medical negligence action against the HSE.

The action was brought on behalf of Rachel McCarthy arising out of the circumstances of her birth at St Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny on 9 December 1989.

It was alleged the HSE were negligent and breach in its duty of care towards Rachel in the manner in which it managed her birth. It was claimed she suffered a lack of oxygen resulting in a permanent brain injury.

The level of care provided after her mother presented at the hospital on the day of her birth was sub standard, Rachel’s counsel Jeremy Maher SC told the High Court.

Rachel should have been delivered by c-section at a time much earlier than she was,  counsel added.

The claims were fully denied and the settlement was made without admission of liability.

Approved

On Friday evening Justice Raymond Fullam approved the €4 million settlement in favour of Rachel from Johnstown in Kilkenny. The action had been brought on Rachel’s behalf by her mother Noreen.

Maher, appearing with Patrick Treacy SC and David Humphries Bl, for Rachel told the court the settlement was a good one and represented 75% of the full value of the claim.

Counsel said that Rachel, Noreen and her husband’ Edward’s fourth child, was born after her mother presented at St Luke’s shortly before 7am on the day of Rachel’s birth and was bleeding.

While the initial care provided to Mrs McCarthy was not at issue, counsel said it was afterwards that the standard of care provided was substandard.

It was their case that the defendant failed to take sufficient CTG monitoring after providing an initial scan on the infant or when Mrs McCarthy started to have irregular contractions .

‘No physical injuries’

Counsel said it was their case Rachel should have been delivered by a caesarean section by 5pm that day at the latest. The infant suffered from a lack of oxygen to the brain.

Following her delivery Rachel was moved to Waterford Regional Hospital. Counsel said she suffered cognitive injuries, but did not suffer from any physical injuries.

There was “a full defence” to the claim. Included in its defence, the HSE argued the injuries Rachel sustained did not occur during the circumstances of her birth.

The injuries she sustained occurred at an earlier stage of the pregnancy, the HSE had claimed.  The fact Rachel did not sustain physical injuries was also indicative of injuries that were not sustained during her birth, the HSE further argued. It was also claimed by the defendant that there had been a delay in bringing the claim.

‘Difficult life’

Maher said while his side were fully confident of countering all strands of the HSE’s defence, and had expert medical evidence to support Rachel’s claim, there was no guarantee that his client’s action would be successful had the case gone to trial.

Rachel, counsel said, is one of seven children. While her life has been “difficult”, Rachel had very caring and extraordinary parents and siblings. The reason she has got on so well in life was due to their efforts, counsel said.

She had attended school for children with special needs and is currently attended a Rehab facility in Kilkenny where she does activities including art and learns various life skills. However she will never be capable of independent living.

Justice Fullam said he had no difficulty in approving the settlement and wished the McCarthy family well.

Speaking afterwards the family’s solicitor Cian O’Carroll said his clients were happy with the settlement.

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Aodhan O Faolain

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