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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.