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Settlement of Medical Negligence Claim for a Mismanaged Birth Approved in Court

The settlement of a medical negligence claim for a mismanaged birth has been approved at the High Court in favour of a couple who lost their two-day old son.

On 20th November 2012, Fiona Watters was admitted into the Cavan General Hospital in the later stages of a pregnancy. Fiona´s waters were broken at 10:30am on the morning of 22nd November by consultant obstetrician Dr Salah Aziz, and she was administered Prostiglandin – a synthetic drug similar to Syntocinon – to accelerate her labour.

During the course of the day, the levels of Prostiglandin were increased. By 9:30pm that evening, Fiona´s contractions were so close together that a natural birth was attempted. However, after an hour the midwife rang Dr Aziz to inform him that the child´s head was still not visible and the indications were that the child was suffering foetal distress.

On his arrival at the Labour Ward, Dr Aziz learned that another C-section procedure was occupying the theatre. He attempted a forceps delivery which failed and a vacuum delivery – both of which failed. When the theatre became available, Fiona underwent an emergency C-section, but her son – Jamie – was born in a very poor condition. He was transferred to special care baby unit at the Rotunda Hospital, where he tragically died in his mother´s arms two days later.

An initial investigation into the cause of baby Jamie´s death was quashed by the High Court in August 2013 after Dr Aziz asserted that the correct procedures had not been followed by HSE investigators. However, having received an advanced copy of the report, Fiona and her partner – Francis Flynn – made a medical negligence claim for a mismanaged birth against Cavan General Hospital and the HSE.

The HSE failed to acknowledge liability for Jamie´s death until July 2014, and subsequently commissioned a second investigation into his death – this time to be conducted by an independent review team following two further newborn deaths at the Cavan General Hospital.

An inquest in December 2014 attributed Jamie´s death to a medical misadventure – citing the increase in the administration of Prostiglandin, Dr Aziz´s negligence in not informing the registrar that the drug had been administered, and the lack of a second out-of-hours theatre at the hospital being causative events leading up to Jamie´s death.

Following the verdict, the solicitor representing Fiona and Francis started negotiations with the State Claims Agency to settle the medical negligence claim for a mismanaged birth. Due to the traumatic circumstances of Jamie´s birth and the protracted nature of the investigations into Jamie´s death, a settlement of €70,000 was agreed to account for the long-lasting grief and distress that had been suffered by Jamie´s parents.

Earlier this week, details of the medical negligence claim for a mismanaged birth were related to Mr Justice Richard Humphreys at the High Court. Judge Humphreys approved the settlement, stipulating that €5,000 of the compensation should be paid into court funds for the benefit of Fiona and Francis´ daughter.