€1m for family of dad killed by GP jab blunder

Aodhan O'Faolain

THE High Court has approved an award of €1m damages to the family of a father who died after a doctor injected him with the wrong medication to treat suspected food poisoning.

Colm O'Donovan (31), of Gloun North, Dunmanway, Co Cork suffered a heart attack and died on August 7, 2004, less than two days after he developed a gastric complaint.

The dedicated family man, who ran a successful welding and metalwork business, was the father of two children, who were aged two and just six days at the time of his death.


His widow Patricia O'Donovan sued both Dr Johan Dirk Van Der Meer, of Sasolburg, South Africa, who allegedly treated her husband, and South West Doctors On Call Ltd trading as South Doc, of St Finan's Hospital, Co Kerry.

It was claimed that Dr Van Der Meer was an employee of South Doc on August 7, 2004 and that South Doc was vicariously liable for alleged actions of Dr Van Der Meer.

Liability was admitted by Dr Van Der Meer and the award was against him only. The action against South Doc was struck out.

In a brief statement read to the court, Dr Van Der Meer expressed his "sincere regret" to Mr O'Donovan's family.

The award was approved at the High Court yesterday by Mr Justice Iarfhlaith O Neill.

Liam Reidy, for Mrs O'Donovan,said that matters had been resolved between the parties. It was agreed that Mrs O'Donovan's and her family would receive €1m, plus their legal costs.

In her action Mrs O'Donovan, now living at Drumdowney, Mallow, Co Cork, claimed Dr Van Der Meer was negligent in treating her husband with the wrong drug -- namely Largactyl -- which may have accelerated what was a serious illness.

It was also claimed Dr Van Der Meer failed to examine her husband properly, failed to refer him to hospital, failed to identify he was seriously ill, failed to exercise the required degree of skill expected from a GP and failed to seek a second opinion from a colleague.

The court heard that Mr O'Donovan became ill on August 5, 2004 with suspected food poisoning. His wife contacted South Doc's out of hours service on August 6 and, it was claimed, Mr O'Donovan attended another doctor and was given an injection of Cyclamorah.

It was claimed that Mr O'Donovan then returned to the family home in Dunmanway but his condition deteriorated and he collapsed when trying to get out of bed and suffered seizures.

South Doc was contacted again on the night of August 6 and a home visit was requested, it was claimed.


During the early hours of August 7, Dr Van Der Meer attended the O'Donovan's home and administered another injection, it was claimed.

He informed Mrs O'Donovan her husband was having a reaction to the first injection and the second injection would counter that.

It was also alleged Dr Van der Meer had said Mr O'Donovan would be drowsy but not to be concerned about the seizures, as by the morning there would be an improvement.

Mr O'Donovan's condition worsened and the family GP attended him but Mr O'Donovan was very sick and suffered a heart attack, it was claimed.

At the time of his death, Mr O'Donovan was a fit and healthy man who spent very long hours building up his business.