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Compensation Claim for Delayed Operation that Resulted in Death of Wife Resolved after High Court Hearing

A widower´s compensation claim for a delayed operation that resulted in the death of his wife has been resolved at the High Court after a settlement of €165,000 was approved.

Helen Malone from Carlow Town died at St Luke´s General Hospital in Kilkenny on 12th January 2006 four days after she had undergone surgery for a bowel problem. The cause of death was recorded as systemic sepsis and multiple organ failure due to a bowel failure, and a subsequent investigation into her death determined that, had Helen undergone the operation earlier, there was a strong likelihood that she would have survived.

Helen´s widower – Patrick – made a claim for a delayed operation that resulted in the death of his wife against consultant doctor George Nessim and the HSE on the grounds that the avoidable loss of his wife had caused great mental distress to himself and Helen´s six adult children.

Despite the Irish Medical Council finding Dr. Nessim guilty on four charges of professional misconduct, the HSE denied its liability for Helen´s death and court proceedings were issued. It was only as the scheduled date of the court hearing drew closer that the HSE finally agreed to settle Patrick´s claim, but due to the nature of Helen´s death, the €165,000 settlement of compensation for a delayed operation first had to be approved by a judge.

After being postponed on five separate occasions, the circumstances of Helen´s wrongful death were related to Mr Justice Ryan at the High Court. Judge Ryan and members of the Malone family heard an apology read to them on behalf of the HSE in which the Executive apologised for the failings in treatment and care that were afforded to Helen. The HSE also acknowledged that the treatment provided for Helen did not meet the appropriate standard of care, which led to a series of events “giving rise to her untimely death”.

Judge Ryan commended the two parties for settling a “difficult, painful and tragic case” and, noting that the settlement of compensation for a delayed operation that resulted in a death did not include aggravated damages, he approved the €165,000 settlement.