Wednesday 14 November 2018

Trauma of dad's death from AIDS led to woman's stress illness

Stock photo
Stock photo

Aodhan O Faolain

The Hepatitis C and HIV Compensation Tribunal's refusal to compensate a woman who suffered "nervous shock" after her father died from an AIDS-related illness has been overturned in a landmark decision.

The High Court ruling by Justice Bernard Barton now leaves open the door to a number of similar claims that are before the tribunal. It was set up in 1995 to compensate anyone infected with hepatitis C as a result of the use of infected blood products.

Judge Barton said the woman suffered "nervous shock" or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) caused by her late father's death from an HIV-related infection which he contracted through contaminated blood products.

The judge said he was satisfied to set aside a 2015 decision of the tribunal that she was not entitled to compensation and has remitted her application to the tribunal for assessment and an award of compensation.

Judge Barton heard the woman's father, who was a haemophiliac, was one of the first people in Ireland to die after contracting HIV/AIDS. His daughter's identity cannot be revealed for legal reasons.

The tribunal, while making an award to the woman for the loss of society and opportunity, had dismissed her claim for PTSD. The woman, who was represented by Gerry Danaher SC, had appealed the tribunal's decision to the High Court. The State opposed the appeal.

Traumatic

Judge Barton said the tribunal's rationale for the dismissal was based on grounds that while the experience of her father's illness had been distressing and traumatic, there did not appear to have been one particularly horrifying or traumatic event or series of events which she experienced which had caused her illness.

The judge accepted medical evidence that the events leading up to her father's death caused a recognised psychiatric illness which emerged after the woman had been admitted to hospital with depression.

As a teenager, she had overheard her mother and a doctor talk about AIDS, which she knew was bad news. Rock star Freddy Mercury had come out to say he was dying of AIDS.

"The appellant literally watched her father waste away," Judge Barton said. She was just 16 when her father died.

Judge Barton said the circumstances of her father's death were "horrific".

He set aside the tribunal's dismissal of her claim, remitting it to the tribunal and adjourned the proceedings to a date in October.

Irish Independent

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