Sunday 22 April 2018

Some people matter, some people don't

There are many children in this country who are viewed as disposable - we owe them more, says Brendan O'Connor

Cartoonist: Tom Halliday
Cartoonist: Tom Halliday
Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O'Connor

Miriam Gillick gave up a career in investment banking to look after her son Benjamin, who is nearly six. Benjamin's twin is a bright kid who is involved in sports and activities. Benjamin needs help even to play. He has cerebral palsy, is quadriplegic and can't speak. He uses a wheelchair and will need constant care for the rest of his life.

For now, much of that care will come from his mother. Benjamin's birth and that of his brother was actually reported in the papers in 2010 when the boys arrived early, at just 25 weeks, with the assistance of firemen from Phibsboro. It was a good-news story at the time. Both boys survived. Twenty-five weeks, born at home. Fighters, clearly.

Eleven months later, Ben had a shunt inserted to drain fluid from his brain. An infection developed but went undiagnosed. This kind of infection was a recognised potential complication of the procedure Benjamin had. It should have been caught. It wasn't. Benjamin was left with brain damage and permanent disability. In the High Court last week, Temple Street children's hospital admitted liability, apologised and settled with the Gillicks, an interim settlement of €6.7m, which will help Benjamin get the care he needs for now.

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