Woman with cerebral palsy sues over ‘negligence’ at birth

A SEVERELY disabled woman with cerebral palsy sustained such serious injuries at birth that she was initially considered unfit for adoption, the High Court was told yesterday.

However, Mary Nugent, aged 26, of Rousseau Grove, Norwood, Waterford, was adopted by her foster parents and, by her own “gritty determination”, completed her Leaving Certificate and is pursuing a law degree.

Mary Nugent, who is wheelchair bound, has sued for damages for alleged negligence in the circumstances of her birth on July 29, 1980, at Aut Even Hospital, Kilkenny.

It is claimed there was failure to properly monitor the foetal heart rate and failure to observe and act on foetal distress by means of an early Caesarean section, allegedly resulting in Ms Nugent sustaining serious injuries. As a result of the alleged negligence, it is claimed Ms Nugent suffered from birth asphyxia, as a result of which she suffered hypoxic brain damage, giving rise to cerebral palsy.

The case is against the hospital and a now retired consultant obstetrician, Dr Anthony Richardson. The claims are denied.

Opening the case, Liam Reidy SC, for Ms Nugent, said that, after her birth, she was placed in an orphanage. She had such poor movements of her face and trunk that she was considered unfit for adoption, it was stated.

However, Moira and Hugh Nugent, the couple who ultimately adopted her were told, when they proposed to foster her in May 1981, that she was “perfect”, Mr Reidy said. The Nugents regarded her as “a blessing”, Mr Reidy said.

In 1989, Moira Nugent brought Mary to the Peto Institute where she had treatment, including surgery, the court heard. On St Patrick’s Day 1990, she took her first independent steps.

Mr Reidy said that “gritty determination” on Mary’s part led to her achieving a reasonable Leaving Certificate and going on to pursue a law degree at UCC, which she intends to complete next year.

Counsel said Mary had met her birth mother for the first time in 1998 and it was then she became aware of the difficulties in the course of her birth. This explained the circumstances behind the delay in proceedings.

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