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Lawyer dies 36 hours after being discharged from hospital, court hears


A man is being treated at St Vincent's Hospital following an armed siege.

A man is being treated at St Vincent's Hospital following an armed siege.

A man is being treated at St Vincent's Hospital following an armed siege.

A widow has told of how her husband had a heart attack and died 36 hours after being discharged from a hospital with a diagnosis of a trapped nerve for pain.

Marion O'Driscoll, whose 68-year old husband James was a senior counsel and well-known member of the Munster Bar, said she still has flashbacks of her husband's death and blames herself for believing the trapped nerve diagnosis.

"I was very relieved and so happy it was not his heart. Imagine, I believed them. That will haunt me all my life," she told the High Court.

She was giving evidence in her action against St Vincent's Health Care Group Ltd, trading as St Vincent's University Hospital, Dublin, for mental distress as a result of the loss of her husband in 2009.

Mrs O'Driscoll, Orwell Road, Rathgar, Dublin, claims as a result of her husband's death she suffered personal injury and loss and their three grown up children have been deprived of their father's love, affection and devotion.

Opening  the case for the widow, Oonah McCrann SC said the essence of the case was the management of Mr O'Driscoll in hospital and the circumstances of his discharge which "fell far below the acceptable standard."

If Mr O'Driscoll - who previously had a triple bypass - had  received the appropriate  treatment, his death from a heart attack would not have occurred.

"If the correct diagnosis had been made , he would have recovered with the appropriate treatment and in all probability would be alive today," counsel said.

Mr O'Driscoll had brought her husband to a VHI Swiftcare Clinic on March 1, 2009,  because he had pain.

Counsel said within 36 minutes he was transferred by ambulance to St Vincents  as the doctor in the clinic had concerns the pain was cardiac related.

Counsel said a very rapid diagnosis regarding the pain was made by the doctor who examined Mr O'Driscoll in hospital and this was never re-evaluated  even though it was made without taking a targeted history.

This had tragic consequences for Mr O'Driscoll and his family, counsel said.  Mr O'Driscoll died on the evening of March 2, 2009, at home.

It is claimed there was a failure to carry out a further medical review of Mr O'Driscoll on five different occasions when he was detained overnight at the hospital and was given further painkillers.

There was also a failure to consider a diagnosis of coronary syndrome. There was. it is alleged, also a failure to adhere to the hospital's own protocol for coronary symptoms.

St Vincents deny the death of Mr O'Driscoll was caused by  any negligence and says the nature, duration, and extent of the pain of which the late Mr O'Driscoll complained was indicative of nerve pain, not cardiac pain.

It also argues the discharge of the late Mr O'Driscoll with a diagnosis of nerve root impingement with prescriptions of analgesics and a referral for physiotherapy was appropriate.

Mrs O'Driscoll, in her evidence, said on the day before he died, she was taking a casserole out of the oven when she heard a crash to the floor.

"I knew exactly what had happened. I was screaming," she said.

She was devastated by his death.

"I am very lonely. I exist. I cry a lot and I am very angry," she told the court.

The case before Mr Justice John Hedigan continues.

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