Mother of brain-damaged boy awarded €15m criticises HSE

The mother of an eight-year-old boy, who has been awarded a €15 million settlement after being brain-damaged at birth, has criticised the HSE for taking eight years to admit liability in the case.

The High Court on Tuesday approved the settlement for Jack Leane, of Lawlor’s Cross, Killarney, Co Kerry, over injuries that allegedly happened as a result of medical negligence.

Jack, through his mother, Annette Leane, sued consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist Barbara Kerkhoff, of Cork University Hospital, and the HSE over his care and treatment before and during his birth at the hospital on August 11th, 2008. Liability was admitted in February last year and the settlement was against the HSE.

Jack has cerebral palsy, is wheelchair-bound and needs to be fed through a tube as well as orally. His injuries left him with epilepsy, which causes him daily seizures, and he also has visual and cognitive impairment.

An apology read in court on behalf of the hospital stated: “We do not underestimate the impact this has had on you and you and your family and we are truly sorry.”

In a statement afterwards, Ms Leane said that what happened to Jack should never have occurred.

She said she wanted to draw attention to the fact it took the HSE eight years to admit liability. “The stress and cost of this action is a huge strain that not all families can sustain or even afford to start to investigate,” she said.

Peace of mind

Ms Leane said the financial settlement would give the family peace of mind and provide for Jack’s future.

However, she said the focus should not be on the size of the award but on asking “that someone look and ask how can we prevent this happening to any other baby”.

In the action it was claimed that there was failure to exercise due and proper care, skill and judgment in managing the baby and his mother from Ms Leane’s admission to the hospital on the morning of August 11th, 2008, until Jack was delivered just before 9pm that night.

It was claimed there was a failure to notice or heed the fact that a cardiotocograph trace showed variable decelerations in the baseline foetal heart rate for hours prior to birth.

Oonah McCrann SC, for the family, said that fatal delay led to catastrophic injuries to Jack, who now requires 24-hour nursing care.

This has mostly been provided by his parents, Padraig and Annette, counsel said. His mother had given up work to look after him.

Ms Leane told the court Jack was very ill in his first five years, which were “very bumpy”, but he is now well and is a very happy boy who likes being out in the fresh air.

“He knows us all, and when we walk in the door today he will know it is Mom and Dad,” she said. “He knows his three brothers and his grandparents and his carers.”

Ms Leane said Jack loved going to school and travelling home on the bus in the evening, but that there had been very difficult times, not least because community services in Kerry were “almost nonexistent”.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Kevin Cross wished Jack and his family well for the future.

© The Irish Times

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