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Interim Settlement of Compensation for the Misdiagnosis of Meningitis Approved in Court

An interim settlement of compensation for the misdiagnosis of meningitis has been approved at the High Court in favour of a young boy who suffered devastating injuries due to medical negligence.

On 27th May 2004, Matthew McGrath was referred to Wexford General Hospital at the age of 17 months when it was noticed that he was vomiting fluids and uncharacteristically drowsy. At the hospital Matthew was diagnosed with Haemophilus Influenza Type B and admitted into the special care baby unit.

Overnight, Matthew´s condition deteriorated and he went into shock. Despite guidelines recommending against the procedure when a patient is in shock, a lumbar puncture was performed on Matthew to confirm a diagnosis of suspected meningitis. However, due to a compression of the spinal cord during the procedure, Matthew is now permanently paralysed.

Haemophilus Influenza Type B is acknowledged to be an indicator of meningitis, and – had the correct diagnosis been made when Matthew was admitted – he could have been treated with antibiotics and fluids, and the lumbar puncture procedure would have been unnecessary.

As a result of the hospital´s medical negligence, Matthew cannot move his arms or legs and relies on a ventilator to breathe. Once the correct diagnosis had been made, Matthew spent two years in hospital until his parents won a prolonged battle to care for him at home in Gorey, County Wexford.

After seeking legal advice, Cathy McGrath made a claim for compensation for the misdiagnosis of meningitis on Matthew´s behalf against the HSE – alleging that, if her son had been correctly diagnosed at the time of his admission and treated with antibiotics and fluids, he would not have suffered such devastating injuries.

Following an investigation into the claim, the HSE admitted liability for Matthew´s injuries and issued an apology to Matthew´s parents. An interim €3.7 million settlement of compensation for the misdiagnosis of meningitis was agreed, but the settlement first had to be approved by a judge before the claim could be resolved.

Consequently, at the High Court in Dublin, Mr Justice Matthew Cross heard about the sequence of events that resulted in Matthew´s devastating injuries. At the end of the hearing, Judge Cross approved the interim settlement of compensation for the failure to diagnose meningitis, and adjourned the claim for five years in order that Matthew´s future needs can be assessed.