A 20-year-old man who sued over a five-month delay in diagnosing his brain tumour when he was a teenager has settled his High Court action for over €6m.
During the five months, a High Court judge was told, his mother “besieged” Cork University Hospital (CUH) for help for her then-14-year-old son.
The boy, who cannot be named by order of the court, was first referred to CUH by his GP after he complained of fatigue and that his left hand was “useless“ and would not work. The boy was also complaining of migraine, it was claimed, and that he found it hard to concentrate.
His Counsel, Oonah McCrann instructed by Cantillons Solicitors, told the court the family were told the problems were psychological and functional and the boy was referred to the mental health services and physiotherapy.
Counsel said the mother has been left “hugely traumatised” over her dealings with CUH as she tried to get answers for her son.
Five months after the teenager's first visit to the hospital, Counsel said his mother “effectively then took the law into her own hands” and arranged for a private MRI scan for her son which showed a deep-seated slow-growing tumour in his brain.
He had brain surgery within days of the scan, but Counsel said he has been left with life-long deficits. Mr Justice Paul Coffey was told the HSE admitted negligence in relation to the delay in the diagnosis of the tumour but contended the five-month delay did not impact the outcome.
Outside court, the young man’s solicitor Karen Kearney said it was a very sad case which underlines the importance of doctors listening to their patients and their families. Mr Justice Coffey was told that separate actions brought by the young man’s parents over the events had also been settled and could be struck out.
The boy when he was 14 years of age, it was claimed, and up to September 2015 was a very active teenager who spent a significant amount of time engaged in sports. In September 2015, it was noted he was feeling quite fatigued and he was not using his left hand and was starting to hold it behind his back.
It was claimed the boy woke one morning to find his left hand would not work and his hand was in a fixed fist position and had a deformed appearance. His parents became concerned and he was brought to a GP and the boy was referred for a neurological assessment through the emergency department at Cork University Hospital (CUH).
It was claimed the boy was reviewed by a number of medical personnel. He presented with persistent clawing of the left hand and complained of migraine. He was also very tired and sleeping a lot.
Despite these symptoms, it was claimed the teenager was not referred for a scan but instead a diagnosis was made that the teenager’s issues were functional and psychosomatic. He was discharged and referred to mental health services and physiotherapy.
Over the next number of months, it was claimed, the teenager’s condition deteriorated significantly. It is claimed that during this time the boy’s mother contacted CUH personnel on numerous occasions and in November 2015 she called in to the hospital without an appointment and asked that her son’s file be reviewed again.
The boy’s GP also contacted CUH, it was claimed, to try to bring the boy’s problems to their attention but it was alleged neither the concerns of the boy’s mother or GP were followed up on. The teenager’s condition and lack of concentration continued to alarm his family.
On February 23, 2016, his mother brought the boy back to CUH and relayed his worsening condition, including involuntary twitching in his left foot, to medical personnel. His mother, it is claimed, expressed her extreme concern and requested her son have a scan.
It was claimed the teenager was not sent for a scan and advised he continue with physiotherapy. In desperation, it is claimed the boy’s mother returned to her GP and obtained a referral for a scan at a private hospital.
The MRI scan on March 3 confirmed the presence of a brain tumour and he was urgently referred to hospital and had brain surgery on March 7, 2016. There was, it was claimed, an alleged failure to arrange an MRI scan for the boy on or after his attendance at CUH on October 22, 2015.
There was also, it was claimed, an alleged failure to arrange for a review of the teenager despite his mother’s repeated telephone calls between November 2015 and March 2016 requesting a review.
Approving the €6.1m settlement, Mr Justice Coffey said it was fair and reasonable and he wished the very best to the young man and to his parents.