€75,000 award for victim of medical negligence
A 47-year-old woman, whose treatment by a hospital was described by a High Court judge as grossly negligent, has been awarded €75,000 damages for personal injuries.
Mr Justice Sean Ryan said surgeon Dr Raymond Howard, when he directed she be transferred from St Joseph's Hospital, Clonmel, Co Tipperary, to Our Lady's Hospital, Cashel, had failed to spot that Anne English was suffering from an ectopic pregnancy.
Mr Justice Ryan said Mrs English, a Clonmel mother of two, had been close to death when the ectopic pregnancy finally ruptured in the Cashel hospital and she was brought by ambulance back to Clonmel for life-saving surgery.
Holding the HSE 60pc liable for what had happened to Mrs English and Dr Howard 40pc liable, Mr Justice Ryan told her barrister John O'Mahony she was entitled to an award of €75,000.
Mr O'Mahony had earlier told the court it was almost 16 years since Mrs English had been admitted to St Joseph's with a suspected molar pregnancy, a very unusual condition where abnormal growth occurs instead of foetal tissue.
It had transpired that she did not in fact have that condition but had the much more common complication of an ectopic pregnancy.
Mr Justice Ryan said Dr Howard, a consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, transferred Mrs English, said to be in severe and continuous pain, to Cashel 20 miles away, for a surgical opinion, noting the possibility of acute retrocecal appendicitis.
Doctors at Cashel decided she did not have this and directed her transfer back to Clonmel with a note recording "bleeding intra-abdominally".
Mr Justice Ryan said that in critical condition she had been transferred back to St Joseph's in an ambulance accompanied by a doctor. On arrival she had been seen by Dr Howard and immediately transferred to the operating theatre where anaesthetic measures had to be taken to resuscitate her.
Mr Justice Ryan said it transpired that Mrs English did have an ectopic pregnancy and had suffered very substantial blood loss.
Some three litres of blood were removed from her peritoneal cavity.
He said she made a satisfactory physical recovery from the operation and claimed she had been severely psychologically damaged by the incident and continued to suffer from it.
Mr Justice Ryan held that the South Eastern Health Board, now the HSE, and Dr Howard were concurrent wrongdoers.
"The decision to transfer her from the Cashel Hospital to Clonmel in this state amounted to gross negligence," he added.