A woman was allegedly put on chemotherapy treatment for cancer by a nurse despite her insistence she should be seen by a doctor first, the High Court heard.

Pauline Carroll, 65, is now in a permanent vegetative state after suffering a heart attack and subsequent brain damage following the chemotherapy session which should not have gone ahead, it was claimed.

Yesterday, she secured €975,000 in settlement of her action for damages against the HSE over the treatment at Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore, Co Offaly, in 2010. The HSE also agreed to provide an indemnity for as long as she lives for her care in a nursing home, where she now lives.

The court heard liability was not conceded as there was an issue between the parties over whether the cardiac arrest, followed by brain damage, was caused by the chemotherapy treatment.

Following discussions, a settlement of €975,000 was agreed.

Ms Carroll, who worked as a psychiatric nurse all her life, sued the HSE, through her husband Kevin Carroll, Killeen, Mountmellick, Co Laois, over treatment she received on November 1, 2010.

She suffered cardiac arrest and consequent brain damage, which was “entirely preventable”, had the chemotherapy drug she was receiving not switched to a different drug, it was claimed.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross told Ms Carroll’s husband it was a “very good legal outcome for what has been an unfortunate and tragic outcome” for his wife and their two sons.

Denis McCullough, counsel for Ms Carroll, said she had been undergoing chemotherapy since August 2010, after she had also undergone surgery earlier that year for a a tumour.

When she attended on November 1 and checked in, a nurse who, counsel said, “had been rude to her on a previous occasion” commenced the next session of treatment even though Ms Carroll told her (nurse) she had not seen a doctor yet.

The nurse told her that she “will be here until night” and she commenced the treatment anyway. Counsel said the nurse was “grossly offensive” to her so much so that Ms Carroll became upset and had to be looked after by another nurse.

The treatment proceeded and after about an hour, she was told the doctor was ready to see her. The doctor told her her bloods were too low and the treatment should not be given for another week or two.

The doctor was very annoyed it had already started but said however it would have to continue.

On November 3, at home, she suffered a cardiac arrest, was taken by ambulance to hospital where she suffered a second arrest causing the brain damage, counsel said.

It was their side’s argument the chemotherapy regime should not have been changed in circumstances where it was known she had suffered cardiac pain on August 30 and where both chemotherapy drugs she was put on were cardiotoxic, counsel said.

There was a full dispute on the facts as to whether the chemotherapy treatment caused the cardiac arrest. The Carroll’s expert would say she should not have been given it as her bloods level (white cells) was 1.07 when it should be at least 1.5.

The HSE had argued giving the treatment at any level above 1.0 was perfectly reasonable, counsel said.

Mr McCullough said an important part of the settlement was the HSE agreed to indemnify her for care beyond the next three years.

In those circumstances, the family were happy to accept the settlement, he said.


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