VIDEO: ‘Experts rowed about how long she’d live’

A mother and father who waited eight years for an apology from the State for the injuries caused to their daughter at birth were forced to listen to experts argue about how long she might live in an effort to secure a final settlement.

VIDEO: ‘Experts rowed about how long she’d live’

Sonya Butler described as “horrendous” and “absolutely disgusting” their two weeks in the High Court earlier this year where she said the State lined up “mathematicians from overseas using their statistics to prove why children like Alex die young”.

Alex Butler is quadraplegic and has cerebral palsy after injuries she suffered at birth in Waterford Regional Hospital on April 12, 2005.

Alex, through her mother, had sued consultant obstetrician John Bermingham, locum consultant obstetrician Mahmud Khbuli, and the HSE as a result of the management of her daughter’s the birth. The action against the two consultants was struck out as part of an interim €1.4m settlement with the HSE in April 2013.

Dr Bermingham, Sonya’s private consultant, had been on leave at the time of Alex’s delivery. Ironically, it was he who delivered Jordan, the latest addition to the Butler family, born just eight weeks ago. Sonya said she no longer had a difficulty with Dr Bermingham, but that his presence at the birth of their new baby showed just how wrong things had gone at the birth of Alex.

“He used a suction cap to deliver Jordan and he was out in 20 seconds. With Alex, it took 28 minutes,” she said.

While the initial court battle for a settlement had been exhausting, Sonya said their time in the High Court in April and May of this year was “10 times harder”.

“The HSE fought it tooth and nail. They brought in loads of experts who knew diddly squat about Alex.” Sonya said one expert witness gave evidence of how Alex only needed one carer to effect a transfer from sitting to standing. Sonya said the expert had spent no more than an hour-and-a-half in their home and that their daughter needed two carers.

Sonya said the HSE apology of 2013 meant nothing. “It was a two-line feeble apology read out in court, nobody was held accountable.”

She said during the latest hearing, which culminated in a final €9m settlement for Alex this week, had not been about what was best for her daughter.

Her legal representatives — foremost among them Margaret Fortune who Sonya said “amazing” — told her that at that stage, from the State’s perspective, it was “just about the money”.

She said the HSE was trying to cut costs on her daughter’s care while at the same time running up astronomical court bills.

She was also critical of the freeze put on the building of a new family home while the latest legal wrangling took place. She said they had been given High Court permission to start the building work but that the State Claims Agency had “spat the dummy” arguing that the interim payment was for personal injuries to Alex.

The Butlers are building a 5,000sq ft tailor-made home for their daughter in Waterford, complete with therapy room, hydrotherapy pool, and a garage that will allow easy access to the car for Alex. They hope to move in by Christmas.

Sonya said the HSE expected her daughter to exist rather than live. “The settlement can’t fix her, but it will ensure she is looked after,”she said.

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