Monday 24 September 2018

'€5m settlement will help as far as money can' - judge tells family of boy (14) with cerebral palsy

Sligo University Hospital
Sligo University Hospital

Tim Healy

A 14-year old boy with cerebral palsy who sued over the circumstances of his birth at Sligo General Hospital has settled his High Court action for €5 million.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross praised the parents of Conor Maxwell for the care they have given their son and the judge said the settlement will now help, "as far as money can" in the future care of the boy.

Conor's counsel Des O’Neill SC, along with Doireann O’Mahony BL, told the court Conor has spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy and cannot communicate. Counsel said Conor is happy as far as they understand but has difficulty communicating and also with his vision. Mr O'Neill said the settlement was as a result of mediation between the sides.

Conor of Carrickmackeegan, Ballinamore, County Leitrim had, through his mother Evonne Maxwell, sued the HSE over the circumstances of his birth on August 13, 2003.

Ms Maxwell was admitted to Sligo General Hospital in labour two weeks before her due date. It was claimed the management of Ms Maxwell’s labour was incompetent and as a result, the baby was exposed to significant hypoxia-ischaemia. The baby was monitored by continuous CTG but the cardiogram was allegedly abnormal from the beginning. These decelerations it was alleged were indicative of hypoxia in the baby, but their significance was allegedly not appreciated. 

The CTG, which it was claimed was clearly abnormal and called urgently for intervention but was repeatedly misinterpreted. 

Conor was born at 07.17 am on August 13, 2003 and required resuscitation and in the hours after his birth developed severe breathing difficulties and had seizures. 

It was claimed there was an alleged failure to exercise the competence, diligence, care, and judgement to be expected in the management of the labour and delivery.

It was further claimed there was an alleged failure to understand, interpret and react to an abnormal cardiogram.

The labour, it was claimed was allowed to continue when it was allegedly unsafe to do so and there was an alleged failure to intervene and perform a caesarean.

Conor it was alleged could have avoided nearly two hours of hypoxia-ischaemia had a proper standard of care been provided. 

Conor was referred for neurosurgical opinion due to concerns about hydrocephalus and a “wait and watch” approach was adopted.

Approximately twelve days after his discharge from hospital Conor was readmitted because he was irritable and unwell. He was diagnosed with E. coli meningitis and treated with antibiotics. His condition deteriorated over the following days and he was transferred to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin where he underwent shunt placement for hydrocephalus.

Mr O'Neill said liability was admitted in the case in relation to negligence and breach of duty but a full defence was submitted in relation to causation. Counsel said the issues around causation were substantial and experts on the HSE would contend when the baby was first discharged from hospital, he was well. 

Approving the settlement Mr Justice Cross congratulated Conor's  mum Evonne and dad, Jason Kellett for the way they have cared for their son. The judge said it was a good settlement and he wished the family all the best for the future.

In a statement afterwards, solicitor David O'Malley who represented Conor Maxwell called on the Minister for Health to bring in a duty of candour for all medical negligence claims. He said Health Minister Simon Harris needed to act now.

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