Sunday 11 December 2016

High Court increased compensation award made to Hepatitis C woman by €70,000

Published 30/10/2015 | 15:38

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The High Court has increased by €70,000 a compensation award made to a woman who was infected with Hepatitis C through the blood product Anti-D.

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Mr Justice Bernard Barton increased an award from €180,000 to €250,000 made by the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal after the woman had developed "life destroying" side effects, including cirrhosis of her liver and a brain injury, after undergoing treatment two years ago to deal with her infection.

The woman, who cannot be identified by order of the court, was in 1977 given an Anti-D injection which came from a batch infected with Hepatitis C. 

She had previously been given an interim award of £283,000 in 1998 by the Tribunal.  Arising out of her complications she returned to the Tribunal and earlier this year was awarded an additional €180,000.

She was dissatisfied with the award made to her by the Tribunal, which she appealed to the High Court.

She claimed the award was insufficient and inadequate.

She also argued the Tribunal failed, when making the award, to have regard to another case where a woman infected with Hepatitis C who also developed cirrhosis, a condition that damages liver function, whom it awarded €250,00O.

The Minister for Health, who opposed the woman's appeal, argued the case was different to the one where a higher award was made.

It was also argued the treatment afforded to the woman was not compensatable because it began before she was diagnosed with what is known as decompensated cirrhosis.

The court heard in 2013 the woman decided, following medical advice, to undergo a treatment known as interferon/ribavirin therapy to deal with the virus.

She underwent the treatment after tests revealed a serious deterioration in the condition of her liver, which was suggestive of possible cirrhosis.

While the treatment cleared the virus it also triggered decompensated cirrhosis.

She also developed a side effect known as encephalopathy. This resulted in psychological and physical effects including slurred speech, and forgetfulness. The condition is irreversible and requires on-going medical treatment.

Giving his decision, Mr Justice Barton said the court had the jurisdiction to compensate the woman for the pain and suffering arising out of the treatment she underwent in 2013.

That treatment he said amounted to "a medical necessity", even though it commenced before there was a diagnosis of cirrohosis. 

He said "the mental anguish" the woman has suffered was "abundantly clear" from the evidence.

Notwithstanding having hepatitis C, she had lived as full and independent life as possible, he said.  Her encephalopathy had "effectively destroyed" that life, he said.

The judge said despite all this she had said it was important to her to keep up her appearance "not to frighten her grandchildren," who are "an important part of her life."

In all the circumstances she was entitled to be compensated in the fair and reasonable  sum of €250,000.

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