Tuesday 23 July 2019

Family of girl born with profound disabilities hits out at maternity hospital as teen settles action for €11m

Luke Byrne

Luke Byrne

The family of a girl born with profound disabilities is hitting out at the maternity hospital for failing to inform them.

Margaret Hurley (18), Skibbereen, Co Cork,  who has cerebral palsy, has settled her High Court action against at Erinville Hospital, Western Road, Cork for €11m, for the circumstances of her 2000 birth.

She has spastic quadriplegia, cannot speak and has to use a wheelchair.

Lyndy Cantillon, partner with Cantillons Solicitors, who advised and led Margaret’s medical negligence claim, said this failure to inform the parents, added to Margaret’s suffering.

(Left) Solicitor Lyndy Cantillon with Claire and Ger Hurley (Parents of Margaret Hurley) after a High Court action on behalf of Margaret Hurley.Pic: Collins Courts
23/1/2019 (Left) Solicitor Lyndy Cantillon with Claire and Ger Hurley (Parents of Margaret Hurley) after a High Court action on behalf of Margaret Hurley.Pic: Collins Courts

"The severity of Margaret’s condition could have been alleviated by early intervention and therapies available at the time,” she said in a statement on behalf of the family.

"Margaret sadly did not avail of these," she said.

She said Ms Hurley’s mother, Claire Hurley, was 32, a public patient at Erinville Hospital, Cork, expecting her first child when problem occurred.

"The young teacher was 14 days overdue and also had high blood pressure, but it was decided not to induce birth. Claire Hurley’s daughter, Margaret, was born with profound disabilities on March 1 2000."

Claire had to give up her job teaching, to care for Margaret full time, while her husband, Gerald, continued to farm.

"It was only in 2014, when Margaret was 14 that her mother read about another child we represented with similar devastating disabilities.

"No-one in the HSE had told Claire there might be medical negligence involved in Margaret's birth."

Margaret’s parents Claire and Gerald (51), called for a mandatory obligation on the HSE to tell parents when their child has been injured as a result of medical negligence.

The couple, from Lisheen in West Cork, have three other children twins  - a boy and a girl - and another boy.

Ms Hurley said mandatory reporting obligations had to be backed up by criminal sanctions.

“As a newly married young couple we were looking forward with joy and anticipation to the birth of our daughter in the year 2000.

“Due to my high blood pressure and the fact that I was 14 days overdue, I should have been induced earlier. Sadly, Margaret was born with profound physical and intellectual disabilities.

“The extent of these disabilities became apparent as she grew older. We never thought that her disabilities were as a result of medical negligence nor more importantly, were we told by the hospital.

“The HSE clearly knew as is shown by their payment of €11m to Margaret. Thank God for the court system.”

Yesterday Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told the settlement against the HSE was without admission of liability.

It was claimed there was an alleged failure to calculate the estimated date of delivery adequately and an alleged failure to monitor Ms Hurley's blood pressue on February 28, 2000, to admit the mother for observation and an alleged failure to induce the labour at an earlier point in time.

The claims were denied.

The Hurleys’ counsel, Liam Reidy SC, told the court it was their case that there was a significant miscalculation of her estimated due date and the pregnancy allegedly overran.

Mrs Hurley, he said, had attended the hospital  on February 28, 2000 and her blood pressure was found to be elevated. She was advised she was term plus eleven days gestation and advised  to return on March 2, 2000 for an induction of labour.

Counsel said it was their case she should have been kept in hospital and her blood pressure monitored.

If that was done he said Ms Hurley would have been induced and none of the alleged mishaps would have occurred. When she returned to hospital he said Mrs Hurley's blood pressure was "through the roof" . When born Margaret was in poor condition and remained in hospital for some time.

Counsel said the parents were not informed at the time of any alleged issues in relation to the birth but in 2014 they saw another case reported in the papers and went to a solicitor.

Ms Hurley told the court she had given up her teaching job to care full time for her daughter. She said Margaret was alert and had her own a way of communicating with the family. She said her daughter had not got therapies she required down the years because of lack of funds and the settlement will now help provide all those to her .

"I have to do everything for her. We are happy with the settlement ," she added.

Approving the settlement Mr Justice Kevin Cross wished the family well for the future .

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