High-profile claims cost State Claims Agency almost €400m

Praveen Halapannavar’s case against the HSE following the death of his wife follows a long line of high-profile claims which have contributed to a near €400m State Claims Agency recession-era health bill.

Four of the most expensive individual cases are detailed below:

nRebecca O Malley — wrong breast cancer diagnosis:

“I live each day with the tormenting thought that the delayed diagnosis of my breast cancer has reduced my chances of survival to little more than a flip of a coin.”

Rebecca O Malley, whose long-running battle with the HSE after she was wrongly given a breast cancer all-clear, did not mince her words when the case was finally resolved last July.

The mother-of-three was incorrectly given the diagnosis in March 2005 after a biopsy at the Mid-Western Regional Hospital in Limerick, which was analysed at Cork University Hospital.

The error failed to be uncovered until Ms O Malley’s GP referred her back to Limerick in May 2006 — 14 months later.

The significant delay had major national implications: it caused countrywide outrage; led to the discovery of further cancer misdiagnoses in other women; and resulted in a Health Information Quality Authority investigation into cancer care in Ireland.

For Ms O Malley the impact was more specific: a mastectomy which could have been avoided.

The exact amount of compensation paid out has never been confirmed.

However, it included a public apology; damages relating to the misdiagnosis; and compensation for what the cancer survivor believed was a PR campaign conducted against her by the HSE after she publicly revealed what happened.

nSarah McFeely and Brid Courtney/brain damages at birth:

Last month, the High Court approved a €1.3m interim settlement for four-year-old cerebral palsy sufferer Sarah McFeely, who was brain damaged at birth.

The girl, from Lismonaghan, Letterkenny, Co Donegal, sued the HSE through her mother Bronagh Colhoun for negligence and breach of duty.

The case heard Ms Colhoun was given an “excessive” amount of a drug used to stimulate labour on Sep 28, 2008, at Letterkenny General Hospital, which contributed to Sarah’s brain damage.

Sarah’s parents had initially sought a meeting with the hospital management to get an explanation for her condition, but were refused.

As part of the interim judgement, Ms Justice Sean Ryan has said further payments in excess of the initial pay-out may be needed to help with Sarah’s ongoing care.

Follow-on payments will also take place in the case of nine-year-old Brid Courtney. Last November, the Kerry girl was awarded an €11m pay-out after suffering brain damage linked to alleged negligence during her birth at Tralee General Hospital.

The HSE did not admit liability.

The case was initially before the court in 2010, when a €2m interim settlement was made.

nElaine Lennon/disability-causing infection:

In 2011, award-winning opera singer Elaine Lennon was awarded €2.39m in a High Court case surrounding the failure of medics to properly diagnose the cause of her severe headaches.

Ms Lennon was left severely disabled after a hospital and a GP failed to properly diagnose the cause of her headaches and settled her action with an interim payment of €2.39m.

She can now only speak in a whisper, is a wheelchair-user, and will require 24-hour care for the rest of her life because doctors failed to diagnose an infection in her brain.

A previous court sitting heard she would have been fine if a CT scan had been carried out in time.

In April 2013, she asked the High Court to determine the cost of her future care in addition to the initial pay-out.

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