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Cerebral Palsy Settlement Awarded 29 Years After Birth Injury

courthouseThe Irish Times reported in June that a 29 year-old woman, Ruth Carmel Foley, who was born with dyskinetic cerebral palsy has garnered a USD $2.32 million cerebral palsy settlement in her lawsuit against HSE (the Health Service Executive). The lawsuit was brought as a result of the alleged mismanagement of Ms. Foley’s birth at St. Luke’s Hospital, Kilkenny, in 1986.

Ms. Foley, now 29 years old, is severely disabled as a result of her condition, and has been cared for throughout her life by her parents who have been hampered in their efforts by limited financial resources. According to the senior counsel who argued the case in High Court on behalf of Ms. Foley, the plaintiff cannot walk and has no control over her limbs but has managed to have some level of enjoyment in her life because of the devotion of her parents.

The defendant HSE is responsible for providing health and personal social services through public funds to everyone living in Ireland. The range of services include hospitals, clinics, public services, addiction and disability services, and sexual and mental health services.

The cerebral palsy lawsuit was filed against HSE by Ms. Foley acting through her mother, Carmel, who had been admitted to St. Luke’s Hospital in May, 1986, with the expectation that the birth might be troublesome. The plaintiffs’ attorney argued the case against HSE in High Court.

Cerebral palsy lawsuit allegations

The first major allegation leading to the $2.1 million Euro settlement was that the HSE’s management of the delivery by the mother, Carmel, of Ms. Foley simply did not meet the requisite standard of acceptable medical care.

The Irish Times reports that the cerebral palsy lawsuit also alleged that there was a “failure to intervene to allow the safe onset of labour and to ensure the immediate transfer of Ms. Foley to the labour ward once labour had commenced.”

The third allegation detailed a failure on the part of the medical staff at St. Luke’s Hospital to “observe and react appropriately” to the telltale signs of fetal distress that revealed themselves right from the beginning of labor. Fetal distress is a term that generally refers to a fetus not receiving enough oxygen during the pregnancy. This lack of oxygen can cause long-term neurological injuries, cerebral palsy, even death.

Fetal distress is revealed in several ways. Decreased movement of the fetus in the womb is first noticed by the mother who’ll report it to the medical staff. Fetal heart rate provides invaluable information about the well-being of the fetus. A fetal heart rate of 100 to 160 beats per minute is considered optimal. If the fetal heart rate is either above or below that range, it could be an indication that the baby is not receiving enough oxygen and needs to be delivered quickly.

If the basic signs of fetal distress are ignored or neglected by the medical staff, long-term issues such as Ms. Foley’s cerebral palsy can be the result of brain damage during the labor. Mr. Reidy argued successfully that the medical staff at St. Luke’s Hospital failed to appreciate the seriousness of the distress warning signs and neglected to act in time to prevent Ms. Foley’s injuries.

HSE denies responsibility; claims that jury was prejudiced

HSE disagreed with the claims alleged in the lawsuit and said that a fair reading of the case was impossible because several important participants in the events leading to Ms. Foley’s birth had since passed away over the last twenty nine years. HSE also argued in High Court that a delay this long in filing would inevitably influence the jurors.

Mr. Justice Michael Moriarty who oversaw the trial in High Court and ultimately approved the settlement praised the “enormous heroic efforts” of Ms. Foley’s parents in providing a life of care and support for their daughter despite not having the financial resources to do so.

  1. Irish Medical Negligence News, Medical Negligence News

  2. BBC News, Belfast Health Trust agrees £5m settlement over brain damage