Thursday 21 February 2019

'This shouldn't have happened to me...' - teenager gets €5.5m and apology over birth injuries

Mary Malee
Mary Malee

Tim Healy

A teenage girl with cerebral palsy has secured €5.56m and an apology from Mayo General Hospital under a final settlement of her High Court action against the HSE over alleged negligence in the circumstances of her birth.

The settlement brings to more than €7m the total sum for Mary Malee, a 16-year-old Transition Year student, who in a statement afterwards said: "Cerebral palsy won't kill me but I have to learn to live with it... it's for life... This shouldn't have happened to me and others like me."

"Justice has been done and I'm bringing closure to this, we can move on with our lives," she said.

Earlier, the President of the High Court, Mr Justice Peter Kelly said he had "no doubt" Ms Malee would achieve her ambition of becoming an advocate for people with disabilities and described the girl and her family as "heroic".

Several family members wiped away tears as Ms Malee read a statement to the judge in which she said, while aware this was a final settlement "and I don't know what the future holds for me", the stress of ongoing engagement with the HSE and the courts "is not what I want".  There is "an undeniable reality to the circumstances put upon me because of the HSE and their doctors", she added.

Ms Malee, Shanaghy, Bohola, Swinford, Co Mayo, through her mother Maura, sued the HSE over alleged negligence in the circumstances of her birth at Mayo General Hospital, Castlebar on October 11th, 1999.

In an apology read in court, the general manager of Mayo General Hospital expressed its "deep regret" to Mary and her family "for the circumstances surrounding your birth on October 11th 1999". It acknowledged "the many challenges that you have faced as a result of the treatment provided to your mother Maura at the time of your birth", adding it did not underestimate "how difficult this has been for you and your family".

Ms Malee secured a €1.5m interim payment in 2014 under a settlement made without admission of liability. Her case was adjourned in anticipation laws allowing for phased payments for catastrophically injured claimants would be in place but, because they are not, she and her parents sought a final settlement.

Having heard from Bruce Antoniotti SC, for Ms Malee, the plaintiff and her mother, Mr Justice Kelly approved the final €5.56m settlement as a "very good result". He was "astonished", having read of her disabilities, at what she had achieved and believed she would, as she hoped,  become an advocate for the disabled, he said.

The judge said he has long advocated using mediation in such cases without need for a full trial and said it was regrettable legislation allowing for phased payments is not yet a reality "despite years of waiting and years of promises".

Previously, the court heard Mrs Malee had, during her pregnancy with Mary, attended as a private patient with the consultant gynaecologist who had delivered her other three children. On October 8th 1999, he advised her she had raised blood pressure, to go to hospital the next day and be prepared for induction of labour.

The gynaecologist, since deceased, also told her he could no longer attend her as he had just been diagnosed with cancer, was about to begin treatment and her care would be transferred to another consultant, it was claimed,

Mrs Malee was admitted to the Mayo hospital on October 9th with symptoms of pre eclampsia. On October 11th, she was transferred to the labour ward and a fourth CTG shortly after 6am showed a series of decelerations. When the consultant to whom her care was allegedly transferred was contacted at 6.07am, he called back at 6.25am saying he was in Letterkenny, it was claimed.

Another consultant was contacted who assisted in the delivery which was complicated, the baby was not born until 7.20am in very poor condition and a caesarean section should have been carried out earlier, it was claimed.

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