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Quadriplegic Girl Receives Additional Hospital Settlement

gavel and stethoscopeA 10-year-old Irish girl whose birth injuries rendered her a quadriplegic and left her with cerebral palsy was awarded an additional €9M (roughly $10 million) from the Health Service Executive (HSE) to compensate for her injuries.

The recent sum was added to an interim settlement of €1.4M that she received 2 years ago for a total birth injury settlement of €10.4M. The High Court approved the settlement on July 22 after an 18-day hearing to determine the child’s future medical and therapeutic expenses.

Along with the interim settlement two years prior, the girl and her family also received an apology from Waterford Regional Hospital, where she was born on April 12, 2005. The hospital accepted responsibility for the injuries and admitted that they should not have happened. The child’s mother expressed surprise that 18 days of further deliberation were required to reach the final settlement, given that the hospital had already admitted its culpability. She said, “It’s been a long 10 years. We got an apology two years ago but it made no difference. There have been a lot of ups and downs in the legal battle.”

Delayed C-section alleged

Initially, the child’s mother had sued two obstetricians attending the birth, as well as the HSE for inadequate management of labor and delivery. The two physicians named were John Bermingham, consultant obstetrician, and Mahmud Khbuli, a locum consultant obstetrician. The claims in the case were that the HSE did not ensure that Dr. Khbuli was not competent to handle the birth and that Dr. Bermingham was absent without ensuring adequate coverage of labor for the family. There were also allegations that the medical staff failed to recognize the need for a C-section due to an inadequate pre-operative assessment of the child’s mother.

Experts in an earlier hearing had testified that the child would not have suffered any physical injuries if her birth had occurred 10 to 12 minutes prior to the actual delivery. The medical malpractice case against the physicians was subsequently dropped, with only the HSE admitting liability for insufficient oversight.

Injured girl faces significant challenges

The 10-year-old who received the settlement is confined to a wheel chair and requires constant care and interventions to get through the day. A reporter who observed the family described her needs in this way: She had to be lifted from bed, dressed, sat on the toilet, fed with soft foods, lifted and strapped into her wheelchair, carried to and from the car, assisted in school, assisted with homework, transferred to a walker at breaktime to allow her spend part of the time outdoors, strapped to a special seat in the cinema, lifted upstairs to the playroom and strapped to a special seat where she can play.

The child’s mother added that she sleeps “with an eye and an ear open.” The family is critical of the way that the recent settlement hearing was handled, claiming that the HSE fought an accurate assessment of their child’s needs, offering conservative assessments (for example) of the number of caregivers who would be required.