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O´Brien Criticises State for Forcing Medical Negligence Litigation

The Director General of the Health Service Executive – Tony O´Brien – has criticised the State Claims Agency for forcing medical negligence litigation.

The head of the HSE was addressing the Oireachtas health committee when he commented that the State Claims Agency contests too many claims for medical negligence compensation and forces plaintiffs to take their claims to court.

Mr O´Brien criticised the adversarial framework used by the Agency, and said that medical negligence litigation delayed compensation to families to whom it was rightfully due for up to a decade. “These cases go on for up to 10 years and the State loses 99 per cent of them,” he said, “so why all that trauma for people to get what they need.”

The Director General added that medical negligence litigation was also damaging to the healthcare professionals involved in each hearing. He said that, although the healthcare professionals were not on trial, they faced cameras at the entrance to “show trials” when the outcome of the hearings was likely to be in the plaintiff´s favour.

Mr O´Brien is keen to promote accountability and said that the State Claims Agency had an “unrealistic” view about risk and safety in healthcare. His solution to excessive medical negligence litigation, Mr O´Brien told the Oireachtas health committee, would be the creation of a compensation fund to support a different system of resolving cases involving cerebral palsy and other avoidable birth injuries.

In response to Mr O´Brien´s criticisms, the State Claims Agency issued a statement saying that 97 percent of cases are resolved without medical negligence litigation; and, in cases where liability is contested, courts find in the Agency´s favour 75 percent of the time.

In October the State Claims Agency published a review of maternity and gynaecology services in Ireland in which it was revealed that total expenditure on cerebral palsy compensation claims had increased from €27 million in 2010 to €47 million in 2014. The increase was partly attributed to more cerebral palsy compensation claims being resolved with a lump sum payment than an interim payment due to the failure to introduce a system of periodic payment orders.