Daunting realities for the family left to cope with ward's mistakes
KAY and William Dunne know all about the life-long legacy that families are left with after mistakes happen in the labour ward.
The Wicklow couple endured an epic legal battle in the 1980s to secure compensation for their brain- injured son William who was born in the National Maternity Hospital in 1982.
The hospital denied negligence and the case eventually went to the Supreme Court where it collapsed and a financial settlement was agreed.
William was born with quadriplegic cerebral palsy. His twin brother Martin was stillborn and the case was the first involving medical negligence to come before the courts.
Long after the publicity surrounds these tragic cases has quietened down, the families involved must cope with the daunting realities of caring for a child with severe disabilities.
Ms Dunne told the conference on cerebral palsy in the Rotunda that William is now 31-years-old and must be cared for around the clock at home.
"We see his personality rather than his disability," she told the gathering.
William's physical health has deteriorated over the years and he is confined to a wheelchair with no movement in his legs.
His feet are misshapen, he has had a number of surgeries and he must be spoon-fed.
His parents said that although their son cannot speak, his family understand him and he likes to listen to music and watch television.
The couple – who have three other children – said they may never have taken the court case if they had got a proper explanation of what happened.
They called for hospitals to adopt a duty of candour and to come clean with patients when it is clear that a mistake has been made.
Rotunda Hospital obstetrician Dr Peter McKenna said that the courts were an "unknown quantity" for hospitals in those days and that the failures which led to William's birth injury could have happened in other hospitals also.