News Courts

Thursday 14 November 2019

Woman gave birth to baby after alleged failed sterilisation, court hears

Tim Healy

A WOMAN became pregnant following an alleged failed sterilisation and gave birth to a baby who died five months later, the High Court heard.

Karen Hurley-Ahern (39) was shocked to find herself pregnant because she had a blood clotting disorder and had decided not to have any more children because of risks to both herself and a child which people who suffer from the condition face.

Ms Hurley Ahern and her husand Garret Ahern are suing consultant gynaecologist Victor Moore, who carried out the sterilisation procedure in Tralee General Hospital in Kerry in 2001, and the Southern Health Board (now the HSE).

They are seeking damages alleging a number of failures including negligence in how the operation was performed.

The defendants deny the claims and say the couple were warned of the risk of failure.

The court was told of the couple's shock of not only finding out Karen was pregnant again but of over the five months of trauma and upset as their third child Samuel, born with severe abnormalities, fought to survive but died as a result of complications from open-heart surgery.

Ms Hurley-Ahern, Assumpta Park, Newcastle West, Limerick, told the court she was had a fairly rare disorder, Factor V (5) Leiden mutation, a condition which causes thrombosis particularly during pregnancy.

Following a miscarriage and two difficult pregnancies and two healthy children, the couple were advised by by doctors that another pregnancy would be extremely harmful to Karen's health.

She was also advised her condition meant there was a greatly increased risk that another child would suffer from severe deformities and disabilities.

They agreed Karen should get sterilised and a tubal ligation was carried out in February, 2001.

It was claimed that while "Filshie clips" were applied to her fallopian tubes, it was not done correctly and the tubes should have instead been cauterised.

They said they were not advised the procedure ran the risk of failure or that additional precautions should be taken to avoid pregnancy.

Around 13 months later, she discovered she was pregnant. "I was in total shock, I could not believe it."

She and Garret were planning to get married that year and now she had to face another difficult pregnancy as well as "walking up the aisle pregnant."

When their son Samuel was born, he had to remain in hospital for the entire five months of his life as doctors tried to save him.

But, Ms Hurley-Ahern said, after months of watching him battling to survive, connected up to machines and tubes, they eventually were asked in March 2003 by doctors would they turn off the machine keeping him alive.

"We still could not turn off the machine but it got really bad and he was fighting for every breath and I then said to the doctor, we are ready," Ms Hurley-Ahern said.

He died 33 minutes later.

"It was so bitter-sweet, for the first time I could hold my son because he had no tubes in him."

Doctors asked if they could take Samuel's body for research to see what way his heart had been pumping but Ms Hurley-Ahern said they just wanted to bring him home, which they did.

The hearing continues before Mr Justice Sean Ryan.

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