A solicitor has urged the Minister for Health to bring in the duty of candour for all medical negligence cases, after his 14-year-old client from Ballinamore, Co Leitrim settled an action over the circumstances of his birth at Sligo General Hospital for €5 million.
In the High Court case, Mr Justice Kevin Cross praised the parents of Conor Maxwell, who has cerebral palsy, for the care they have given their son and said he hoped the settlement would help him “as far as money can” in the future.
Des O’Neill SC, for Conor, told the court his client has spastic quadriplegia cerebral palsy and cannot communicate. He said Conor is happy as far as they understand but has difficulty communicating and also with his vision.
Mr O’Neill said the settlement was as a result of mediation between the sides. The teenager, of Carrickmackeegan, Ballinamore, Co Leitrim, had through his mother Evonne Maxwell sued the HSE over the circumstances of his birth on August 13th, 2003.
In a statement after the proceedings, David O’Malley, solicitor for Conor, called on Minister for Health Simon Harris to immediately bring in a duty of candour for all medical negligence claims. A duty of candour in this context is generally imposed on a public authority not to seek to win a litigation at all costs but to assist the court in reaching the correct result.
Sligo General Hospital
Ms Maxwell was admitted to Sligo General Hospital in labour two weeks before her due date. It was claimed the management of Ms Maxwell’s labour was incompetent and as a result, the baby was exposed to significant hypoxia-ischaemia.
The baby was monitored but the cardiogram was allegedly abnormal from the beginning, which the court heard was indicative of hypoxia in the baby. However, it was alleged that their significance was not appreciated.
Conor was born at 7.17 am and required resuscitation. In the hours after his birth, he developed severe breathing difficulties and had seizures.
It was claimed there was a failure by the hospital to exercise the competence, diligence, care, and judgement that was to be expected in the management of Ms Maxwell’s labour and delivery. It was further claimed there was an alleged failure to understand, interpret and react to an abnormal cardiogram.
The labour, it was claimed, was allowed to continue when it was unsafe to do so and there was an alleged failure to intervene and perform a caesarean section.
It was alleged that Conor could have avoided nearly two hours of hypoxia-ischaemia had a proper standard of care been provided. He was referred for neurosurgical opinion due to concerns about hydrocephalus and a “wait and watch” approach was adopted.
Liability was admitted
Approximately 12 days after his discharge from hospital Conor was readmitted because he was irritable and unwell. He was diagnosed with E.coli meningitis and treated with antibiotics. His condition deteriorated over the following days and he was transferred to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital, Crumlin, Dublin.
Mr O’Neill said liability was admitted in the case in relation to negligence and breach of duty but a full defence was submitted in relation to causation.
Counsel said the issues around causation were substantial and experts on the HSE side would contend that when the baby was first discharged from hospital, he was well.
Approving the settlement Mr Justice Cross commended Ms Maxwell and Conor’s dad, Jason Kellett, for the care their son had received and wished the family all the best for the future.