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Claim for a Retained Swab during Childbirth Resolved

A claim for a retained swab during childbirth has been resolved at the High Court with the award of €117,000 compensation to the injured mother.

On 22nd April 2013, Sarah Daly (38) from Rathfarnham in Dublin gave birth to a healthy child at the Mount Carmel Hospital. Three days later, Sarah was taken back to the hospital by her husband in extreme pain.

No internal examination was conducted for a further three days, when a swab “the size of a plum” was discovered and removed. However, as the swab was removed without any antibiotics being prescribed, Sarah developed a significant infection which caused her further pain and discomfort.

Sarah made a claim for a retained swab during childbirth against consultant Valerie Donnelly and Charles Julian Dockeray – who had managed the delivery and was standing in for Ms Donnelly – alleging that the swab was wrongfully inserted, that the presence of the swab was not identified for three days after she presented at hospital, and that she was discharged without antibiotics, resulting in an infection.

Liability was admitted by the medical professionals and the claim for a retained swab during childbirth went to the High Court for the assessment of damages. At the High Court, Mr Justice Kevin Cross said what ought to have been a very joyous occasion for Sarah had become something that will live with her for the rest of her life.

The judge awarded Sarah €117,000 in settlement of her claim, commenting that the award was “fair and reasonable”. The judge added that the size of the award represented the hospital´s negligence in failing to conduct an internal examination when Sarah first complained three days after the birth of her child. Had the swab been detected immediately, Sarah would not have developed the subsequent infection.

Note: Normally a claim for a retained swab during childbirth would not warrant this level of compensation. As Mr Justice Kevin Cross noted, Sarah sustained a series of avoidable injuries and the amount of the compensation awarded to Sarah reflects the injuries she sustained, rather than the level of negligence demonstrated by the hospital´s medical professionals.