The family of a woman who died after a charting error resulted in her only getting half her normal dose of an epilepsy drug for 23 days have settled their High Court action over her death for €260,292.
Kathleen Leech (aged 68), a mother of five adult children from Courtown in Gorey, Co Wexford, died on June 30, 2012, after staff at Peamount Healthcare nursing home, Newcastle, Co Dublin, failed to notice she had only been given her morning dose of Keppra, an anti-convulsant to stabilise her epilepsy, when she should also have got a second daily dose.
Peamount gave an unreserved apology for failings in the care provided to her.
Her widower, Gregory Leech senior sued for wrongful death and her children, Noreen, John, and Gregory Leech junior, and Marian Dalton and Kathleen Caulfield, sued for nervous shock. Liability was admitted.
In a letter read out in court today, Peamount gave Mr Leech an unreserved apology for failings in the care of his wife and for the distress and upset it had caused to the family.
Barney Quirke SC, for the family, told the court she suffered a stroke in November 2011 and never recovered enough to be discharged home from Tallaght Hospital but a place was found for her in Peamount in June 2012.
She was on some 21 medications and unfortunately, on the day she arrived at Peamount, the pharmacy was closing and there was a failure to record that she required two doses of Keppra. It was described correctly in the one chart but in the drug description chart the timing of the doses was misdescribed, counsel said.
As a result, she was 23 days without her second dose. She later suffered a serious seizure and was transferred back to Tallaght Hospital but unfortunately nothing could be done because she had developed an infection and passed away on June 30, counsel said.
As a result of an investigation and an inquest a number of significant changes have been made by Peamount, including in relation to drug charts, to try to avoid this error happening again, counsel said. The family were delighted that some good has come as a result, he said.
Counsel also said Mrs Leech was a big personality and the foundation stone and bedrock of the family. Her husband had suffered terribly as a result of her death.
The case was settled for €260,292 and all members of the family had agreed to waive their claim to the statutory €25,000 payment to the family over the death and it is to go to their father for him to deal with. They had come to court, not for compensation but to remember their mother and see what good can be done for the future, counsel said.
Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Anthony Barr said he was sorry for the tragic loss of Mrs Leech. He was glad the family had remained so strong and got some small consolation from the fact that practices would change so what happened will not happen to anyone else.
In a statement afterwards, family solicitor Mark Tiernan said it was seven years since they lost their mother not through an accident but through negligence.
Mr Tiernan said, on behalf of the family:
"We finally achieved what we set out to do and that was to receive a public apology from Peamount Hospital."
"We know this will not bring our mam back but hopefully it will mean no other family will ever have to go through the suffering and loss we have endured."
The statement added that their father can begin to grieve for his best friend and soulmate and the children can begin to grieve for the mother they loved so much.