Blind garda settles case against HSE and eye specialist
Published 14/10/2011 | 05:00
A GARDA sergeant who was suing health service bosses after claiming he had been left blind as a result of alleged failure to promptly diagnose a serious infection of the eye linked to wearing contact lenses has settled a High Court action.
Niall Fitzpatrick (47), a father of two from Boher, Co Limerick, sued the Health Services Executive and a consultant eye specialist, Raymond Niland. The defendants denied the claims.
On the second day of the case yesterday, Ms Justice Mary Irvine was told by Liam Reidy, counsel for Mr Fitzpatrick, the case had been settled and the proceedings against both defendants could be struck out. No details of the settlements were disclosed.
Ms Justice Irvine said it was a very difficult case and she was pleased the sides had reached a settlement.
When opening the case, Mr Reidy said the first symptoms of his client's condition began in June 2005 and his eyesight had deteriorated dramatically three months later.
Mr Fitzpatrick was seen on 11 occasions from his first meeting with an ophthalmic registrar at the A&E unit of the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick on June 12, 2005, until his admission to the hospital on September 8, 2005.
During those three months, all those who saw his client failed to take "the most preliminary step towards diagnosing him" by taking a swab of the eye, counsel said.
Mr Reidy said doctors continued to treat Mr Fitzpatrick for a viral keratitis when his condition later turned out to be acanthamoeba keratitis (AK) -- a serious corneal infection of the eye linked to wearing contact lenses.
Mr Reidy said the AK condition was well-recognised by 2005 and was known to result in blindness unless diagnosed and treated early. If the diagnosis of AK had been made earlier Mr Fitzpatrick, who had been wearing soft contact lenses, would have made a full recovery, counsel claimed.
Following several examinations, Mr Niland asked two colleagues to review Mr Fitzpatrick on September 8, 2005, and both diagnosed AK.
On Sunday September 11, 2005, the day Mr Fitzpatrick was due to take his son to watch the All-Ireland Hurling Final, "He couldn't read the paper," Mr Reidy added.