Friday 15 December 2017

Man sues after contracting Hepatitis B in hospital while being treated for cancer

Aodhan O'Faolain

A MAN in his 50s contracted a virus while he was being treated in hospital for cancer, the High Court has heard.

The man, who cannot be identified, says he contracted Hepatitis B from another patient while undergoing treatment at both Wexford General Hospital and Waterford Regional Hospital high dependency units sometime between late 2004 and early 2005.

He has sued the HSE saying it was negligent due to its failure to keep the areas where he was an in-patient germ free and in particular free from the Hepatitis B virus

Hepatitis B which is an inflammation of the liver and is transmitted mainly through contact with contaminated blood or sexual contact.

He claims that following his diagnosis, he and members of family were asked a lot of personal and intrusive questions about his sexual history.

The court heard the diagnosis of having such a highly infectious disease had a terrible effect on him, resulted in him suffering from a deep depression and on one occasion he made an attempt on his own life.

His wife, who has not brought a claim, also contracted the virus, the court also heard.

Liability in the case, which is before Mr Justice Eamonn De Valera, has been admitted and the action is for the assessment of damages only.

In his claim, the man says the HSE failed to monitor the area where he was an in-patient, failed to have either proper cleaning equipment or adequately trained staff to keep the area free from the virus.

He further claims the HSE ran the hospital in a manner that was dangerous to him and the public, and that he was placed in an area where the HSE should have known he would be prone to be infected.

Opening the case yesterday Gerry Danaher SC for the man said his client is a married man who was a father and grandfather.

Counsel said that sometime in late 2004 early 2005, while the man was being treated for cancer of the blood at the hospitals in Waterford and Wexford, he contracted Hepatitis B. It was not known exactly when he contracted the virus, but it occurred sometime during the course of his treatment.

Following tests the man and his family were subsequently informed of his infection.

Several family members were tested, and the man's wife was diagnosed as having the virus, counsel added. Counsel said that due to the stigma of having such an infectious disease the man was left feeling isolated and shunned, and made an attempt on his own life.

As a result of what was deemed by doctors to be a very high viral load he was put on medication. The man has received on-going treatment for his condition, and will require care into the future.

Counsel said that subsequent to his infection a biopsy revealed the man has cirrhosis. Counsel added that as part of his claim the man has concerns about his medical card and disability allowances.

Prior to contracting Hepatitis he had been treated for a number of illnesses including cancer and had been out of work. Should the man receive an award, counsel said there is a concern his could lose those benefits.

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