HSE admit liability and apologise to family after baby girl delivered stillborn 15 years ago
Last week, the Health Service Executive (HSE) and University Maternity Hospital Limerick admitted liability in the High Court to our client Rebecca Collins, who gave birth to Hannah, a stillborn baby girl, at the hospital 16 years ago.
Ms Collins sued the HSE for allegations of medical negligence, mismanagement and a breach of duty of care for its part in her family's tragic loss.
The six-figure HSE settlement, its admission of liability, and more so, its public apology offer some closure to Ms Collins and her family, who hope no other victims of medical negligence should have to endure further hardship in finding answers.
Ms Collins and her husband, Tom were left utterly heartbroken and would live for the next 15 years with unanswered questions until she watched an RTÉ Investigates report on Prime Time in 2015. The report referred to foetal heart monitoring, which prompted Ms Collins to contact the hospital. Ms Collins learned that her CTGs (Cardiotocography) had not been appropriately read by what was then known as St Munchin’s Maternity Hospital (now known as the University Maternity Hospital Limerick), which led to a failure in identifying and proactively managing the life-threatening risk to her baby.
According to Ms Collins:
“It only added further anguish and trauma to have to wait and fight for so long for answers.”
“I should have left the hospital in a haze of love and excitement with my little bundle of joy - my little girl Hannah who would turn 16 this year. Instead, I left the hospital knowing my beautiful girl, whom I carried for nine months, never got the chance to breathe life. That feeling of emptiness, immense loss and pain and a lack of understanding still haunts me to this day.”
The Patient Safety Bill, which passed the report stage last month and is now going through the Seanad for further scrutiny, will require disclosures of any serious patient safety incidents where any unintended or unanticipated injury or harm has occurred as soon as reasonably practicable.
Rachael O’Shaughnessy, HOMS Assist Partner welcomed today’s settlement:
“While a long-awaited milestone was celebrated to see the Patient Safety Bill pass the report stage last month, we still need to see it move forward swiftly to become law. Cases such as this highlight the real and urgent need for the Bill to be enacted. Sadly this case also serves as a shocking reminder to patients to ask and keep asking the difficult questions in relation to patient care particularly if it involved the death or injury of a loved one.”
“Rebecca has fought this case with great dignity so that her daughter’s death was not in vain. I’m honoured to have been able to support her and while we welcome today’s settlement, I know that no amount of money could ever compensate for Hannah’s life which is gone forever - laughter that will never be heard and a daughter who will be forever loved and missed.”
Admitting liability and a failure in its duty of candour, in an apology read to the court today, a spokesperson for the HSE said:
“The willingness of the family to share their experience was invaluable to allowing this investigation to learn from their experience and in helping to make recommendations to improve the systems and processes in place. The Maternity Hospital and the HSE confirms that they are committed to ensuring that the recommendations identified by this investigation report are implemented as a matter of urgency.”
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