Friday 20 April 2018

‘This shouldn’t have happened to me and others like me’

Mary Malee – a 14-year-old with cerebral palsy - gets €1.5m interim settlement

Tim Healy

A 14-YEAR old girl with cerebral palsy has secured a €1.5million interim settlement of a legal action against the HSE over alleged negligence at her birth.


If Mary Malee had been delivered earlier at Mayo General Hospital, she would have been spared what happened to her, the High Court heard.


Her counsel said she is a very bright  and popular girl with terrific family support and she hopes to go on to third level education. Despite certain physical deficits, she is coping exceptionally well, Aongus O'Brolochain SC said.


The court heard that the interim settlement was without an admission of liability.


 In two years time the case will come back before the court when a judge will assess Mary's future care needs including the provision of a house which is expected to cost in the region of €500,000.


Mary, who is in a wheelchair, read a short statement to the court in  which she said her condition isn't like a broken leg in a cast for eight weeks, but for life.


"Cerebral palsy won't kill me, but I  have to learn to live with it," she said.


" This shouldn't have happened to me and others like me.


"It would have been appreciated had the HSE/Mayo General Hospital said they were sorry, but at least the payment of the compensation lessens the future financial worries."


She said she and her family were now bringing closure to this chapter and can move on with their lives.


Ms Justice Mary Irvine, who came off the bench to sit beside the girl and listen to her statement, said it was "very touching and moving". Approving the interim settlement, she said it was a very good settlement.


Mary, of Shanaghy, Bohola, Swinford, Co Mayo, had through her mother, Maura Malee, sued the HSE over the circumstances of her birth at the Castlebar hospital on October 11, 1999.


It was claimed there was an alleged failure to intervene and carry out a cesarean section in a proper and timely manner and an alleged failure to ensure the presence of a skilled paediatrician at the birth of the baby, who was known in advance of delivery to be suffering from foetal distress  and was likely to require expert resuscitation.


It was further claimed when a consultant did arrive on the labour ward at nearly 7am, there was an alleged failure to understand the severity of the mother's condition and the urgent need for a cesarean.


The claims were denied by the HSE.


The girl's counsel, Mr O'Brolchain, said Mary was Mrs Malee's fourth and last child.


She attended a consultant gynaecologist who had delivered her three other children. The gynaecologist, on  October 8, 1999, advised her she had raised blood pressure and she should go in to hospital the next day.


He advised Mrs Malee to be prepared for the induction of labour and also told her he would not be able to attend as he had a cancer diagnosis and was about to begin treatment but would make arrangements for her care to be transferred to another consultant.


Counsel said Mrs Malee attended her GP on October 9 who told her to go to hospital immediately as she had symptoms of pre eclampsia.


She was admitted on October 11 and was transferred to the labour ward  where a third CTG trace was commenced. A fourth CTG, shortly after 6am, showed a series of decelerations and a consultant was called.


The consultant rang and said he was in Letterkenny and another consultant was contacted who arrived and assisted in the delivery. Counsel said the delivery was complicated and Mary was not born until 7.20am. Counsel said a decision to carry out a cesarean should have been made earlier. 


Outside the court, the family's solicitor Michael Boylan said it had been a long hard struggle for the Malees and they were now  relieved Mary's future  is secure.


"She was immensely brave to read her statement in court. You have to focus on her abilities , not her disabilities. She is a real winner,"he said.

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