Family of student, 21, who died of blood poisoning settle against HSE

The hospital, the family's solicitor said, conceded there were failings and it had “let this young man down”. 
Family of student, 21, who died of blood poisoning settle against HSE

Mary Mulchrone leaving the Four Courts on Wednesday after settling an action against the HSE over the death of her son, Adam. Mr Justice Paul Coffey extended his deepest sympathy to Adam’s parents Paul and Mary and the Mulchrone family. Picture: Collins Courts

The family of a 21-year-old man who died of blood poisoning after being discharged from a hospital A&E the day before when he presented with headaches and vomiting has settled a High Court action over his death.

Adam Mulchrone, the High Court heard, was deteriorating by the hour and by the time he returned to the Mayo University Hospital he was in a state of health that could not be reversed and died within 12 hours.

An inquest into the death of the student from Westport, Co. Mayo, later gave the cause of death as multi-organ failure due to, or as a consequence of, meningococcal septicaemia with neisseria meningitis infection an antecedent cause.

In the High Court, the Mulchrone family counsel Des O’Neill SC, instructed by Ciaran Tansey solicitor, told the court that the day before his death Adam who had taken ill while football training was referred to Mayo University Hospital by a GP on the basis of possible meningitis.

Counsel said he was examined in A&E after waiting but was discharged four hours later without a second evaluation of his case.

Adam, counsel said, was” deteriorating by the hour” and returned to the hospital seven hours later in a “state of health which could not be reversed”. Counsel said within 12 hours Adam had died.

It was the Mulchrone’s case that that on the balance of probabilities had Adam been admitted for IV fluids and antibiotics after first attending the hospital at 15.16 on January 26, 2019, he would have survived.

The Mulchrones settled a number of actions against the HSE over Adam’s death and for nervous shock. The terms of the settlement, which was reached after mediation, are confidential.


Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Paul Coffey extended his deepest sympathy to Adam’s parents Paul and Mary and the Mulchrone family. Mr O’Neill said the hospital did apologise in a letter to the Mulchrone family and acknowledged liability in the case.

In the letter of apology to the Mulchrones sent in October last year, Mayo University Hospital said it wished to extend sincere condolences following the tragic and untimely death of Adam in Mayo University Hospital.

“The loss of Adam for you as a family is immeasurable and I know will have a lifelong impact on you all as individuals and as a family. Adam’s death is deeply regretted by all the staff and management at the hospital especially those who were involved in his care in the emergency department and later in the ICU,” it said.

It added: “While we cannot fully comprehend the ongoing impact this loss has had on your family, we are truly sorry for the pain and distress caused. We unreservedly apologise for the failings in the standard of care provided to Adam.” 

The letter also said what was learned from Adam’s case would continue to be addressed by the hospital emergency department.

Mary Mulchrone of Sandyhill, Westport, Co. Mayo, had sued the HSE.

Case background

On the morning of January 26, 2019, Adam had attended football training but returned home because he was not feeling well. He had a headache and his temperature started to rise. A GP advised he be taken to Mayo University hospital as it was an emergency.

He was reviewed at the hospital and abdominal pain vomiting and chills were noted. During an examination, it was claimed his sister noticed light red patches start to flare up on her brother’s neck and fade again. It was claimed this happened multiple times and that the family told the doctor.

Adam complained of stiffness in his neck and the doctor looked in his mouth and felt his jaw socket and neck but said Adam could go home. When the family got home Adam got sick straight away and his temperature went up . His condition worsened in the early hours and he had what looked like little red prick spots on his back.

The family brought Adam back to hospital where he was reviewed at 5am. It was noted he had a rash all over his body and his neck was very rigid. A working diagnosis of acute bacterial meningitis was made.

There were further reviews but Adam’s condition deteriorated further with worsening renal and respiratory failure and multi-organ failure. He was intubated but died at 16.42 on January 27 of meningococcal septicemia, which is a bloodstream infection.

Outside court, solicitor Ciaran Tansey said Adam had all the classic symptoms of meningitis but appeared to have “slipped through the cracks”. The hospital, he said, conceded there were failings and it had “let this young man down”. 

He said it agreed to implement processes to ensure it does not happen again. He said this is hugely important for the Mulchrone family.

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