Man with cancer got hepatitis B in hospital


A MAN contracted hepatitis B while being treated in hospital for cancer, the High Court has been told.

The man, who cannot be identified by order of the court, claims he contracted the virus from another patient while undergoing treatment in the intensive care/high-dependency units of Wexford General Hospital and Waterford Regional Hospital between late 2004 and early 2005.

The diagnosis of such an infectious disease had a terrible effect on the man, including causing a deep depression and an attempt on his own life, the court heard. The man’s wife, who has not brought a claim, also contracted the virus.

The HSE has admitted liability in the case, which is before Mr Justice Éamon de Valera for assessment of damages only. In his action, the man alleges the HSE was negligent and in breach of its duty of care towards him due to its failure to keep the areas where he was receiving inpatient treatment germ-free and, in particular, free from the hepatitis B virus.

He claims the HSE failed to monitor the areas and failed to have proper cleaning equipment or adequately trained staff in the treatment areas. The HSE, he alleges, ran the hospital in a manner dangerous to him and the public. He also claims he was placed where the HSE should have known he would be prone to be infected. Opening the case, Gerry Danaher SC, for the man, said his client is married and a father and grandfather. Some time in 2004 or early 2005, while the man was being treated for cancer of the blood at the hospitals in Waterford and Wexford, he had contracted hepatitis B, counsel said.

Following tests, the man and his family were informed of his infection. After the man’s diagnosis, he and members of his family were brought in by the HSE and asked personal questions about his sexual history.

Several family members were tested and the man’s wife was diagnosed with the virus, counsel added. Due to the stigma of having such an infectious disease, the man was left feeling isolated and shunned and made an attempt on his own life.

As a result of what was deemed by doctors to be a very high viral load, he was put on medication, is receiving ongoing treatment and will require care into the future, counsel added.

Subsequent to his infection, a biopsy revealed the man has cirrhosis, Mr Danaher said. Assurances were being sought from the HSE that medical card and other benefits that the man enjoyed would not be affected if he received monetary compensation.

Paul Coffey SC, for the HSE, said the application concerning benefits was a different and novel issue from what was before the court and might require a separate hearing.

The case continues.