Man sues Dublin hospital over alleged delay to treatment of spinal condition

The medical staff provided care, assessment and management that was “above a reasonable standard”, hospital says

5/10/2012.  - NEWS - GV - General View -
Mater Hospital, Dublin.
Photographer: Dara Mac Dónaill / THE IRISH TIMES 

Photographer: Dara Mac Donaill / THE IRISH TIMES

A man restricted in “everything he does” is suing a Dublin hospital seeking damages for an alleged delay to treating his medical condition.

The lasting injuries have had a “devastating effect” on the man, who is in his 40s, said his counsel Aongus O’Brolchain SC, instructed by Gillian O’Connor of Michael Boylan Litigation Law.

Counsel said the man could no longer do his work and was “restricted in everything he does”. He was also suffering psychologically due to the effect of his injuries, which the plaintiff side ranked as “catastrophic”, said Mr O’Brolchain.

The Mater Misericordiae University Hospital denies any wrongdoing or liability.

Expert medical witnesses for the plaintiff will say the man presented at the Mater on February 24th, 2019, with symptoms and signs suggestive of evolving cauda equina syndrome (CES), a rare but serious nerve-related condition, the court heard.

Mr O’Brolchain said the case would not have been brought if the timing of his treatment had been done correctly, although his side accepts the father-of-four would have been left with “residual issues” regardless of the hospital’s response.

The court heard the man had a history of back pain and on or about February 20th, 2019, he experienced sciatica-type pain after lifting a heavy object at home.

He told the court he experienced a numbness in his inner thigh and groin area two days later that grew to an “almost intolerable” pain.

The man said his general practitioner said he may be developing CES and directed told him to attend the Mater, as a specialist centre. He claims that, following an X-ray and various sensation tests at the Mater on February 24th, he was advised to wait for an outpatient MRI scan to identify the cause of his back pain.

The man said that following a sleepless night in “agony” he visited another GP who told him to return to the Mater and not leave until an MRI had been conducted.

At about 9.15pm on February 25th, it is claimed, he attended the Mater’s emergency department and it was allegedly recommended that he undergo an emergency MRI scan the next morning.

He said he underwent emergency decompression surgery on the morning of February 26th.

Among his claims is that the hospital was negligent and/or breached its duty in how it investigated, diagnosed and treated his presenting condition.

He alleges there was a failure to escalate the matter to consultant level or to a doctor with the appropriate specialty and a failure to organise an immediate MRI scan when he first presented at the hospital, on February 24th, 2019.

There was also an alleged failure to discern that he was presenting with a spinal emergency and a failure to have adequately considered the time-sensitivity of treating him.

The Mater denies that any delay from triage to review by a medic that occurred when the man presented at the Emergency Department on February 24th contributed to the injuries as alleged.

The hospital says the medical staff provided care, assessment and management that was “above a reasonable standard”.

It further asserts the man did not and does not have cauda equina syndrome but had a lumbar disc prolapse, simpliciter, and was at all times appropriately treated. It says the surgery performed demonstrated successful decompression.

It also alleges that the issues the man now complains of are unrelated to the events of February 24th and 26th, 2019.

The case before Mr Justice Garrett Simons continues.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is an Irish Times reporter