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Late Diagnosis Claims

Late diagnosis claims for compensation can be made when you or your child has suffered the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition due to a medical professional misdiagnosing or failing to diagnose the condition.

The settlement of late diagnosis claims takes into account many factors – such as the level of deterioration, whether the condition is still treatable and, if so, how much longer your recovery will take due to the late diagnosis of your injury.

Unless you are claiming on behalf of a child, you are allowed to make late diagnosis claims up to two years after the error has been identified – not two years from the date on which the error occurred. Late diagnosis claims for children do not have this time limit.

For further information about late diagnosis claims – and details on how to proceed with a claim – you should speak with a medical negligence solicitor at the earliest practical opportunity.

HSE Settles Claim for Undiagnosed Bleeding on the Brain

The Health Service Executive has admitted partial liability in a claim for undiagnosed bleeding on the brain and settled the claim for €2.7 million. On 26th June 2006, Paula Dundon (42) attended the Naas General Hospital complaining of a sudden and severe onset of headaches accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Paula was treated with painkillers and underwent a CT scan on her brain. The CT scan allegedly failed to determine the cause of her headaches but, as her condition did not improve, Paula – from Brownstown in County Kildare – underwent a second CT scan three days later that revealed a large intra cerebral bleed on the left side of her brain. Paula was transferred to the Beaumont Hospital, where a further investigation determined that she had suffered an intra cerebral subarachnoid haemorrhage. Due to the length of time between attending Naas General Hospital and being transferred to the Beaumont Hospital, the bleeding on Paula´s brain caused her to suffer brain damage, and the former hairdresser now requires 24-hour care. On his wife´s behalf, Michael Dundon made a claim for undiagnosed bleeding on the brain. In his legal action against the Health Service Executive (HSE), Michael alleged that there had been a failure to adequately assess Paula´s condition when she attended the hospital in Naas and the failure to carry out a prompt diagnosis that would have accelerated Paula´s transfer to the Beaumont Hospital. The HSE contested the element of the claim for undiagnosed bleeding on the brain that related to the failure to assess, but agreed that Paula´s brain injury should have been identified sooner – facilitating her transfer to the Beaumont Hospital where she could have received appropriate treatment and her brain damage would not have been so severe. A settlement of the claim for undiagnosed bleeding on the brain was agreed for €2.7 million. However, as the claim had been made on behalf of a plaintiff who was unable to represent herself, the settlement had to be approved by a judge. The approval hearing took place earlier this week before Mr Justice Kevin Cross. Approving the settlement, Judge Cross said Michael and his two children should be congratulated for the care they had given to Paula since her injury. He wished the family all the best for the future.

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Interim Settlement of Claim for the Failure to Diagnose Sepsis Approved in Court

A €550,000 interim settlement of a claim for the failure to diagnose sepsis has been approved in the High Court in favour of a man permanently in a coma. On 3rd October 2011, Robert Bolton (71) underwent surgery on his oesophagus at the St James Hospital in Dublin. The surgery was considered to be successful but, the following morning, James suffered a heart attack due to respiratory failure brought on by sepsis. Due to a combination of the heart attack and respiratory failure, Robert went into a coma and has been in a minimally conscious state ever since. Unable to speak or communicate – and oblivious to the presence of his family – Robert requires around-the-clock specialised care. On her husband´s behalf, Robert´s wife – Angela – made a claim for the failure to diagnose sepsis against St James Hospital, alleging that the hospital had not met the generally accepted criteria for systemic inflammatory response and sepsis. It was also alleged that the hospital had failed to identify the symptoms of sepsis-related organ failure. The hospital contested the claim for the failure to diagnose sepsis, but admitted that there had been failings in the standard of care provided to Robert. A €550,000 interim settlement of compensation was agreed to provide Robert´s care for the next two years. However, as the claim for the failure to diagnose sepsis had been made on behalf of a plaintiff unable to represent themselves, the settlement had to be approved by a judge. Consequently, at the High Court, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told the circumstances of Robert´s heart attack, its probable cause, and the consequences of his condition to his wife and family. Judge Cross approved the interim settlement after Angela told him that the family was happy that Robert´s care would be provided for. The judge commented that the settlement of the claim for the failure to diagnose sepsis had been well thought out and was obviously the result of hard bargaining.

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Claim for the Late Diagnosis of Hydrocephalus Settled in Court

A child´s claim for the late diagnosis of hydrocephalus, which allegedly resulted in him suffering from autism, has been settled at the High Court. Joe Keegan-Grant was born at the Mount Carmel Hospital in Dublin by emergency C-Section on 17th January 2008 after a scan had revealed an arachnoid cyst near the base of his brain and doctors wanted to avoid any pressure being applied to the cyst during Joe´s delivery. Discharged in good health, Joe was regularly assessed by public health nurses and paediatrician Dr Vladka Vilimkova; but according to Joe´s mother – Patricia – neither plotted Joe´s head circumference on a chart or exchanged the measurements they had taken. Due to the failure to exchange information, it was not realised that Joe´s head circumference was expanding faster than a normal child´s. It was only when the family moved to Creggs in County Roscommon that Patricia´s new GP expressed concerns about the size of Joe´s head. Patricia requested a referral to the Crumlin Hospital for a scan and, in October 2008, Joe was diagnosed with hydrocephalus – a condition that is a known possible consequence of an arachnoid cyst. The condition was attributed to Joe´s developmental delay, behavioural problems and autism. Through his mother, Joe made a claim for the late diagnosis of hydrocephalus, alleging that – as it was a known possible consequence of an arachnoid cyst – both the public health nurses and Dr Vilimkova should have been on the lookout for the condition. Medical negligence was denied by the Health Service Executive (HSE), but as Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told at the High Court, a €1.9 million offer of settlement had been made to the family without an admission of liability. Judge Cross heard that, despite his autism, Joe was doing well at school. However, he would not be able to care for himself when he grew older, live an independent life or earn a living. Joe´s father told the judge: “we just want to ensure that we can look after him and offer him the best care and therapy and interventions that can bring him along.” It was also explained to the court that although Joe´s legal team had evidence to support the claim for the late diagnosis of hydrocephalus, the HSE had experts that would dispute the link between undiagnosed hydrocephalus, developmental delay and autism. With there being an issue of doubt over causation, Joe´s barrister had recommended that the family accept the offer of compensation. The judge said it would be prudent for him to approve the settlement of Joe´s claim for the late diagnosis of hydrocephalus; noting that there was a risk that, should the case go to a full hearing, the HSE could win its argument. Judge Cross approved the €1.9 million compensation settlement and wished Joe and his parents all the best for the future.

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Court to Decide Compensation for the Mismanagement of Cancer

The High Court will decide this week how much compensation for the mismanagement of cancer a plaintiff should receive after liability was admitted by the HSE. In July 2010, Kevin McMahon – a 63 year-old truck driver from Roxboro in County Limerick – underwent a biopsy at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital due to the discovery of a lesion on the left side of his vocal chords. As the lesion could have been an indicator of cell carcinoma, Kevin´s histopathologist scheduled him for a second biopsy in October. However, that appointment was later cancelled and re-scheduled for January 2001. When Kevin attended the re-scheduled appointment, he was told he would have to undergo urgent surgery to remove his larynx. The operation went ahead, and now Kevin has to speak through an artificial voice box. On discovering that the lesion on his vocal chords could have been successfully treated with targeted radiotherapy, Kevin claimed compensation for the mismanagement of cancer – alleging that the treatment he received was inappropriate and had caused significant damage and distress. It was also alleged that there had been a failure to discuss the treatment options available and – as a consequence – Kevin had been unable to give his informed consent for the surgery taking place. A further complaint related to the delay in conducting the second biopsy. The Health Service Executive contested the claim for compensation for the mismanagement of cancer until this past Tuesday, when – on the day before a court case was due to start to determine liability – the HSE acknowledged that the treatment Kevin had received was inappropriate in the circumstances. A the High Court, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told that liability was no longer an issue and the case was before him for the assessment of damages only. The judge will now hear evidence to determine how much compensation for the mismanagement of cancer Kevin should be awarded.

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Claim for a Fatal Delay in Identifying Surgical Complications

A family from West Yorkshire is to receive a six-figure out-of-court settlement following a claim for a fatal delay in identifying surgical complications. On 28th April 2009, thirty-eight year old Tracy Hall was admitted to the Pinderfields Hospital in Wakefield for the reversal of a stoma. The elective surgery took nine hours to complete, after which Tracy suffered complications including internal bleeding and an infection. Tracy´s condition continued to deteriorate and, on 4th May, nursing staff identified blood in her stoma bag. Tracy was returned to theatre, where it was discovered that an artery had been cut during surgery and that the cause of the blood was that her abdominal wall had burst. Tracy had been diagnosed with Crohn´s disease in 1996 and, prior to her surgery, her condition had been particularly active. She had suffered from abdominal pain and lost nearly three stones in weight in the months leading up to her operation. In a very weak condition, Tracy was moved into the hospital´s High Dependency Unit. She was sedated and put onto a life support machine, but tragically died eight days later from multiple organ failure caused by sepsis. Tracy´s husband instructed medical negligence solicitors to investigate the care his wife had received subsequent to her surgery. The solicitors discovered that there had be a delay in identifying and treating the complications and that, due to Tracy´s condition prior to the operation, surgery should not have even taken place. Tracy´s husband subsequently made a claim for a fatal delay in identifying surgical complications against the Mid Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust. The NHS Trust admitted that the standard of care Tracy received both before and after her surgery were sub-standard, and a six-figure settlement of the claim was negotiated. Speaking after the claim for a fatal delay in identifying surgical complications had been resolved, Tracy´s mother told reporters: “We have been completely heartbroken since losing Tracy – it was incredibly difficult for the whole family to see her suffer like she did and deteriorate so quickly in front of our eyes. We never imagined that just two weeks after surgery she would no longer be with us. I just hope that this doesn’t happen to any other families and that the NHS Trust learns from its mistakes.”

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Alliance wants Legislation to Improve Patient Safety in Hospitals

The Medical Injuries Alliance has called on politicians to fix a “glaringly obvious” problem that would help to improve patient safety in hospitals. The Medical Injuries Alliance is an organisation that helps patients who have suffered injuries due to mistakes in hospitals get answers about how the mistakes were made. Among the Alliance´s objectives is the promotion of studies into why mistakes occur, so that the results can be used to improve patient safety in hospitals. In order to meet this objective, the Alliance has frequently called on politicians to introduce laws that would force healthcare professionals to admit when mistakes have been made, to explain how they happened, and to issue an apology immediately. The “Duty of Candour” – the Alliance claims – would also accelerate the settlement of hospital negligence compensation claims. The Alliance has a statement on its website that reads “the duty of candour in hospitals and doctors should be placed on a statutory footing, entitling injured patients to an accurate account of how they came to suffer medical injury in Irish hospitals” and, to force the issue of patient safety in hospitals, the Alliance has now written a letter to the Irish Times. The letter was prompted by an article that appeared in the Irish Times that commented on a nine-year delay in the settlement of a cerebral palsy compensation claim. The paper wrote that the delay was due to alleged “stonewalling” by the Health Service Executive (HSE), pointed out that duty of candour laws were implemented in the UK last year, and that similar legislation is clearly needed in Ireland. The response by the Medical Injuries Alliance was much in agreement with the sentiments of the article and highlighted the necessity to improve patient safety in hospitals. Joice McCarthy – the Secretary of the Medical Injuries Alliance – wrote that many hospital negligence victims are forced to take legal action to get answers that healthcare professionals are reluctant to give. Ms McCarthy added that injured patients who have been through the legal process often found it to be a stressful and protracted experience; and she alluded to the recent “shabby episode” disagreement between the HSE and the State Claims Agency, in which both blamed the other for a six-year delay in settling a hospital negligence claim. Ms McCarthy concluded her letter: “Instead of blaming any particular State organisation, or indeed having different State organisations blame one another for the current difficulties, it is high time politicians simply acted to introduce a legal duty of candour in order to fix what seems to be a glaringly obvious problem”.

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