Medical Negligence* in Ireland

A medical negligence claim in Ireland may arise if you have suffered from an injury as a result of medical mistreatment or a lack of medical care.

Medical negligence can be a factor in a cases involving spinal injury, brain injury and birth injuries as well as other life change injuries. These cases can result from delayed treatment, failure in diagnosis or treatment, such as a negligently performed surgery, not providing patients with accurate information, or not involving them properly in decision-making around their own care.

 

What is the test for medical negligence in Ireland?

You must be able to prove the following:

1. Breach of Duty

  •  Was there a breach of the duty of care owed by the medical practitioner?

&

  • Did that breach of duty cause the injury in question?

2. Can the medical practitioner in question be proved guilty of such failure – that no medical practitioner of equal specialist or general status and skill would be guilty of, if acting with ordinary care?

 

How was the test for medical negligence determined?

The principles to be applied were set down in 1989 in the seminal case of Dunne v National Maternity Hospital and Jackson. In this case, the infant Plaintiff sustained irreversible brain damage and catastrophic injuries at birth and his mother (on his behalf) brought a claim in the High Court seeking compensation for those injuries. The facts of the case related to the alleged negligent mismanagement of the last six hours of the mother’s twin pregnancy and labour by failing to monitor two foetal heart beats instead of one. This was the very first birth injuries case to come before the Courts and the decision of the High Court was appealed to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court’s judgement summarised the legal principles which the Courts should adopt in all cases of medical malpractice and since then they have become known as the ‘Dunne principles’ and are as follows:

 

Dunne Principles

The principles applicable are as follows:

  1. The test for establishing negligence in diagnosis or treatment on the part of a medical practitioner is whether he or she is proved guilty of such failure — as no medical practitioner of equal specialist or general status and skill would be guilty of if acting with ordinary care.
  2. The fact that the negligence allegation is based on the fact that the medical practitioner deviated from a general and approved practice will not establish negligence unless it is also proved that the course he took was one which no medical practitioner of like specialisation and skill would have followed had he been taking the ordinary care required of a person with his or her qualifications.
  3. If a medical practitioner charged with negligence defends his conduct by establishing that he followed an approved practice, this is one which was approved of by his colleagues of similar specialisation and skill, he cannot escape liability if in reply the Plaintiff establishes that such practice has inherent defects which ought to have been obvious to any person giving the matter due consideration.
  4. An honest difference of opinion between doctors as to which are the better of two ways of treating a patient does not provide grounds for a Judge to make a finding on negligence.
  5. It is not for a Judge to decide which of two alternativeive courses of treatment is preferable, his function is to decide whether the course of treatment followed by the defendant practitioner, on the evidence, complied with the careful conduct of a medical practitioner of like specialisation and skill.

In a recent Supreme Court case of Ruth Morrissey and Paul Morrissey v Health Service Executive, Quest Diagnostics Incorporated and Medlab Pathology Limited the Supreme Court affirmed that the ‘Dunne’ principles remain the appropriate legal test for establishing liability in medical negligence litigation in Ireland.

 

Medical Negligence & Birth Injury Claims

Birth injury claims involving children who are injured during the course of labour, delivery and in the neonatal period are some of the most tragic, emotional and distressing types of medical negligence cases that come before the Courts.

Typical injuries that lead to a birth injury compensation claim are often related to the baby not receiving sufficient oxygen during or just before delivery. This can be caused by inadequate monitoring, failure to diagnose a condition, the mother experiencing complications during the birth or improper handling of the baby once it is born. A reduction in the supply of oxygen to the brain may cause brain damage or lead to some other form of permanent disability, such as cerebral palsy.

Birth injuries which can arise as a result of medical negligence include the following:

  • Cerebral Palsy
  • Hypoxic Ischaemic Encephalopathy
  • PVL (Periventricular Leukomalacia)
  • Erbs Palsy
  • Brachial Plexus Injury
  • Neonatal Hypoglycaemia
  • Caput Succedaneum
  • Facial Paralysis
  • Hip Dysplasia
  • Fractures

Maternal birth injuries which can arise as a result of medical negligence include the following:

  • Vaginal and perineal tears
  • Neurological complications as a result of epidural or spinal anaesthesia
  • Nervous shock (a recognisable psychiatric injury induced by the Defendant’s actions)
  • Incorrect suturing (stitching) following an episiotomy or caesarean section
  • Fissures

 

Medical Negligence & Spinal Injury Claims 

Spinal cord injuries can arise or be exacerbated as a result of medical negligence. Examples of such:

  • Delayed medical treatment (for example, a failure to refer a patient for treatment or in carrying out the necessary procedure
  • Misinterpretation of radiology and scans
  • Inappropriate surgery or inappropriate surgical technique (for example the misplacement of instrumentation or adopting an incorrect surgical approach)
  • Failure to recognise symptoms (for example, failure to appreciate the red flag symptoms of cauda equina syndrome which can lead to permanent neurological impairment)
  • Neurological complications as a result of epidural or spinal anaesthesia
  • Inadequate follow up care

 

Medical Negligence & Brain Injury Claims

Brain injuries can arise or be exacerbated as a result of medical negligence. Examples of cases have been made on behalf of Plaintiffs are:

  • Delayed medical treatment (for example, mistakes or delays in  recognising treating conditions such as a stroke or meningitis)
  • Misinterpretation of radiology and scans
  • Inappropriate surgery and/or surgical technique
  • Failure to recognise symptoms early in the course of pregnancy and labour (failure to diagnose pre-eclampsia, failure to diagnose foetal distress in labour, not applying cooling treatment where the baby has suffered a deprivation of oxygen at birth)
  • Error in administering the wrong medication (for example a prescription error)
  • Inadequate follow up care

 

Medical Negligence Solicitors

If you believe that you might have a medical negligence claim, it is important that you choose specialist solicitors to handle your case. We at McMahon Goldrick Solicitors specialise in medical negligence and serious injuries. At McMahon Goldrick Solicitors, we pride ourselves on the standard of care we offer to our clients. We act exclusively for individuals and families that have been affected by spinal cord injury, traumatic brain injury and birth injury resulting in permanent disability. Please, as always, email or telephone us with any queries on a non-committal basis.

Contact Us

Looking for help? Call us on 01 6770044 or email us at info@rmcm.ie