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Woman Deaf Due to Medical Negligence has Compensation Settlement Approved in Court

An 18-year-old woman, who is allegedly deaf due to medical negligence, has had a €5 million settlement of compensation approved at the High Court.

Laura Kavanagh from Newtownmountkennedy in County Wicklow contracted meningitis when she was thirteen months old, and an alleged failure by her family GPs to attend her in good time resulted in Laura permanently losing her hearing.

At the High Court, Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard how Laura´s mother – Simone – had telephoned Dr Frank Malone´s surgery in Greystones in County Wicklow on 29th January 1998 to say that Laura had become ill with a high temperature, was lethargic and had severe fatigue.

When Laura´s condition worsened, Simone Kavanagh rang the surgery again and spoke with Dr Malone´s partner – Dr Paul Crean. Dr Crean said he would make a house call after surgery and – 3½ hours later – he examined Laura and diagnosed a bowel infection.

The following day, Simone Kavanagh called the surgery again to request another visit as her daughter was no better. She was told that it would be at least three hours before a doctor could attend Laura, but when Laura showed signs of improvement, Simone cancelled the house call.

However, Laura´s condition deteriorated once again and, on 31st January 1998, an on-call doctor visited the Kavanagh´s home and immediately admitted Laura to hospital, where she was diagnosed with severe meningitis.

The court heard that Laura lost her hearing due to the illness and now communicates through sign language and some lip reading, but has a moderate intellectual disability.

Through her mother Laura made a compensation claim for being deaf due to medical negligence, alleging that there had been a failure to ensure proper care and continuity of care and a failure to attend Laura in good time.

It was further alleged there had been a failure by Dr Crean to diagnose meningitis or alternatively an alleged failure to attach due weight or concern to Laura´s condition and symptoms.

The claim for being deaf due to medical negligence was denied by the two doctors but, as Ms Justice Mary Irvine was told, and a settlement of €5 million compensation had been agreed without admission of liability.

The judge approved the settlement, commenting that money would never give Laura the life she was meant to have.