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Widow to Receive Compensation for Fatal Medication Error

The widow of a man, who died of a muscle failure condition after being prescribed medication for an infected toe which allegedly interacted with his diabetic treatment, is to receive compensation for a fatal medication error.

Margaret Devereux from Greenrath in County Tipperary made a claim for compensation for a fatal medication error after her husband – John Devereux – had died in Cork University Hospital in March 2008 from acute renal failure brought on by rhabdmoloysis – a condition in which the muscles break down.

John had initially attended the South Tipperary General Hospital in Clonmel in January of that year with an infection in a toe on his right foot. Doctors diagnosed that the infection was due to septic arthritis and prescribed Sodium Fusidate – a medicine often prescribed for bacterial skin infections – before sending him home.

However, John´s infected toe got no better, and he started to develop debilitating pains in his arms and legs. He returned to the hospital on February 15th, when he was admitted and five further courses of Sodium Fusidate were administered – causing his condition to deteriorate further and develop into acute renal failure. John was transferred to Cork University Hospital, where he died on 2nd March.

Margaret Devereux took legal advice after discovering that her husband´s death could have been avoided if a potential conflict between the Sodium Fusidate that was prescribed for him and his existing diabetic medication had been identified before it was administered, and claimed compensation for a fatal medication error against the Health Service Executive (HSE).

The HSE denied any negligence or that it was in breach of its duty of care but, after negotiation, agreed to a compensation settlement of €45,000 which Margaret accepted under legal advice. At the High Court in Dublin, the settlement was approved by Mrs Justice Mary Irvine, who commented that there would have been a “huge hill to climb to establish liability” had the claim gone to court.