Health of child in row over medical records should be at ‘forefront’ - judge

Girl’s family has brought proceedings against CHI seeking all medical records arising out of spinal surgery

A High Court judge has said the health of a young girl at the centre of a legal row over the disclosure of medical records, including ones concerning allegedly “botched” spinal surgery, should be at “the forefront” of the proceedings.

The remarks were made by Mr Justice Mark Sanfey on Wednesday in proceedings brought by the girl’s family against Children’s Health Ireland (CHI), the body that governs paediatric services at Temple Street hospital.

The girl, who cannot be named for legal reasons, has spina bifida and underwent an operation on her spine at Temple Street that was not successful.

In proceedings arising out of her surgery, her family is seeking court orders requiring CHI to provide them with all of the girl’s medical records.


During the brief hearing, Oonah McCrann, for CHI, said her client had provided them with all documents it should have furnished in response to the family’s request under the Freedom of Information Act.

It was not a straightforward process to obtain all of the records, counsel said, but everything had now been provided within the legal time frame allowed under the Freedom of Information process.

Counsel argued that effectively the proceedings were now “moot”. Her client needed time to fully and formally reply to several serious accusations made against it in the proceedings.

Ms McCrann said her client rejected the applicants’ claims that no care plan was in place for the child and said appointments for the child with specialist doctors had either already taken place or had been scheduled.

John Healy, appearing with Michael Devitt, instructed by solicitors McGroddy Brennan, rejected CHI’s claim the action was moot and said his client’s application should be heard as soon as possible.

Counsel said his side had only recently been provided with a document that “for the first time” informed the child’s parents what exactly had gone wrong with the girl’s operation.

The family at last were told that the rod that had been inserted into the girl’s spine had become infected, and had to be removed, counsel said.

Counsel added that the family was still being “drip fed” information and disputed claims that a care plan was in place for the child.

Mr Justice Sanfey said both sides needed to put the child’s health at the forefront. It was obvious to the court that the perceptions of the family and those treating the child regarding her care were quite different, and that was something that needed to be addressed.

The judge said the CHI needed time to reply to the serious claims made against it.

However, he urged the sides not to engage in “affidavit tennis” where both sides end up making claims and counterclaims against the other.

After making directions for the exchange of legal documents, the judge adjourned the case to a date next month.

The girl is one of 19 children who were the subject matter of a report on patients with spina bifida who underwent spinal surgery at Temple Street.

The child, it is claimed, suffered serious post-operative complications, and her parents were told she would require further surgery.

Following media reports about spinal surgeries at Temple Street, the family claim they were informed by the defendant that the surgery their child underwent was “inappropriate”.

They were subsequently told that as a result of the “botched” surgery, she has a split spine and will require further surgeries and procedures over the coming years.