Saturday 25 November 2017

Mother tells High Court of her sadness her son left with cerebral palsy following birth

Pat and Margaret Beirne of Mullingar, Co Westmeath at the High Court
Pat and Margaret Beirne of Mullingar, Co Westmeath at the High Court (PIC: COURTPIX.)
Pat and Margaret Beirne of Mullingar, Co Westmeath at the High Court (PIC: COURTPIX.)
Pat and Margaret Beirne of Mullingar, Co Westmeath at the High Court (PIC: COURTPIX.)

Tim Healy

A MOTHER told a court of her sadness and disappointment that her son had been left with cerebral palsy due to alleged lack of monitoring at a hospital during his birth.

Margaret Beirne claimed there was a delay in the emergency surrounding the birth of her son Luke "due to midwives chatting on the corridor and a locked theatre room" in the Midland Regional Hospital. She also claimed her pain "was dismissed and no thought given to any underlying reason".

She was speaking just before the High Court approved a settlement for an interim payment of €900,000 for Luke (now 10) arising out of the circumstances of his birth at the hospital on September 30, 2004.

Luke,  of Ballinalack, Mullingar, Co Westmeath, through his mother, sued the HSE and consultant obstetrician David Mortell, of the Midlands Regional, for negligence.

Among the claims were the defendants failed to properly monitor Mrs Beirne and her baby during labour and induction, some 11 days past her due date. It was also claimed there was a failure to have any or adequate discussions with her about the increased risks of vaginal delivery in view off the fact that her first baby in 2001 was delivered by caesarean section.

The defendants denied the claims and the court heard, if the case had gone to trial, would say that all that could have been done was done.

The court heard the family were concerned the settlement figure was not realistic or sufficient for Luke's future but their lawyers had recommended that it be accepted rather than risk a full court fight. The case will return to court in eight and a half years for further assessment.

Mrs Beirne said she and her husband Pat entrusted the court to make the right decision for Luke and his future.

Mr Justice Michael Moriarty said he believed the offer made by the defendants "after a lot of hard bargaining" on the part of the Beirne's very experienced legal team of Denis McCullough and Michael Boylan, was in the best interests of Luke.

The judge was sorry if the Beirne's felt he was letting them down, but the alternative was the hardship of a six-week trial and the uncertainty that goes with that. He therefore approved the settlement.

In her statement earlier to the court, Mrs Beirne said the events which led to his traumatic birth "should never have happened".

She and her husband were never informed of the risks of a natural birth following her caesarean three years earlier.

"The lack of care and monitoring on the 30th September 2004 resulted in an emergency beyond recourse", she said.

It was dreadful to think it had taken so long for the family to get to this stage and "yet still there is no admittance of liability".

No apology or explanation was given and no follow up to alleviate the pain and damage caused, she said.

Her lawyer, Mr McCullough, said while there was no admission of liability or apology, there had been "an expression of regret offered".

Mrs Beirne said after 11 years there were now "meagre words being proposed to soften the shock".

Professionalism should always ensure "integrity is at the core", she said. 

"It is a grave insult that the reputation and ego of others is upheld even at times of clear negligence," she said.

"People should hold their hands up and admit to fault.

"This might help inner healing, lead to lessons learn and prevent similar events happening to others and for future deliveries".

She also said while Luke has physical difficulties, his intellectual abilities appear to have escaped uninjured. His main difficulties in schooling is the quantity of work he can produce as his hand cramps and he tires.

He is a source of "great joy and love" with a wicked sense of humour while extremely sensitive and affectionate.

He has had to endure a lot not just with cerebral palsy but other conditions including asthma and multiple allergies.

He will require surgery and extra therapy as he gets older due to his muscles tightening. Physically, the gap between him and his peers is evident and that gap will grow as he gets older, she said.

She also pleaded for Luke's entitlements, like the Medical Card and early intervention supports, not to be withdrawn from him.

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