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Settlement of Claim against HSE for Cerebral Palsy Approved by Judge

A High Court judge has approved the settlement of a claim against the HSE for cerebral palsy and criticised both the HSE and State Claims Agency for taking so long to resolve the case.

Dylan Gaffney (6) from Kilcohan Park in Waterford was born at Waterford Regional Hospital on July 22nd 2007, in a poor condition after an emergency Caesarean Section had been performed on his mother – Jean – and with no paediatrician immediately available to provide adequate resuscitation.

Jean Gaffney had previously requested a Caesarean Section delivery for Dylan, as her first daughter had been born by emergency C-Section after 51 hours of labour, and she had miscarried a second child. Her obstetrician had dissuaded her from having one, despite an ultrasound two days before Dylan´s birth indicating that he weighed nine pounds, four ounces.

The ultrasound had been conducted after Jean had attended the Waterford Regional Hospital on July 20th because she believed her waters had broken. She was given an antenatal appointment for five days later but, on the morning of the 22nd, went into spontaneous labour and was admitted into the hospital.

Jean was administered oxytocic – a drug to stimulate contractions – and told to commence pushing. According to Jean´s solicitor at the High Court, this was entirely inappropriate in the circumstances and a Caesarean should have been performed straight away. Instead, medical staff at the hospital waited until after 2.00pm in the afternoon to deliver Dylan.

When Dylan was eventually resuscitated, he had been denied oxygen in the womb and was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and other injuries.

After speaking with a solicitor, Jean made a claim against the HSE for cerebral palsy compensation in her son´s behalf, and wrote to the State Claims Agency in June 2009 with evidence of negligence compiled by an independent medical expert.

Despite the evidence clearly showing that Dylan´s birth injuries were attributable to negligence before, during and after his delivery, the State Claims Agency denied everything and refused to consider Jean´s claim against the HSE for cerebral palsy.

Ultimately, court proceedings had to be issued while Jean and her partner – Thomas Hayes – put their lives aside to care for Dylan. It was only shortly before Jean´s claim against the HSE for cerebral palsy was due to be heard that liability was admitted and discussions started to agree a financial settlement.

At the High Court in Dublin, Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard that an agreement had been reached for Dylan to receive a lump sum payment of €8.5 million, as a more beneficial structured payment system was not yet available.

The judge approved the settlement, but criticised the conduct of the Health Service Executive and State Claims Agency for the delay in admitting liability, and causing additional stress for Dylan and his family. She said that this was the second case within a week where the actions of the HSE and State Claims Agency were “highly regrettable”.