‘He never came home’: Mayo University Hospital apologises to family of man who died after catheter removal

Martin Best (67) was due to be discharged but issues arose when CVC line taken out while he was sitting up

The family of a man who died after an air bubble travelled to his brain when a central line in his neck was removed in hospital has settled a High Court action over his death.

Martin Best (67) was due to be discharged from Mayo University Hospital when the central venous catheter (CVC) line, which administered medication, was removed while he was sitting up rather than lying down.

The family’s senior counsel Damien Higgins, instructed by David O’Malley solicitor, told the High Court that air went into Mr Best’s system and travelled to his brain, causing a catastrophic neurological injury.

The grandfather died four days later on January 12th, 2019 at the Castlebar hospital. Counsel said Mr Best should have been lying down when the line was removed.


In a letter of apology read to the court, Mayo University Hospital said it accepted there was a deviation in protocol for removing CVC lines, with Mr Best allowed to sit up during the removal procedure. It also said it accepted that a coroner’s postmortem rather than a hospital one should have been arranged after his death.

“These issues are deeply regretted and we wish to extend our sincere apologies to you and your family,” said hospital general manager Catherine Donohue. The hospital offered sincere condolences to Mr Best’s widow and extended family.

Speaking on behalf of the family outside the Four Courts, Mr Best’s daughter, Sharon, said the settlement and apology were bittersweet and it has been a very tough five years since her father’s death.

“We now hope that every hospital in Ireland introduces this protocol for CVC removal and that it is continuously assessed so that nobody ever has to go through what we have had to go through,” she said.

She said her father was a generous, kind and warm-hearted man. “He was coming home that day and he never came home.”

Mr Best’s widow, Geraldine Best, of Childers Heights, Ballina, Co Mayo, had sued the HSE over the death of her husband at the hospital and for mental distress.

Mr Best had chronic lung disease and, on December 29th, 2018, experienced breathing difficulties. He was brought to the hospital where investigations were carried out. He was then discharged.

However, the next day he was advised upon the reviewing X-rays that there was an area of clinical suspicion and further imaging was required. On January 1st, 2019, he became breathless and attended the hospital where a scan was performed. He was admitted and his condition deteriorated when he developed respiratory failure in association with rapid atrial fibrillation.

He was transferred to a critical care unit at the hospital and a CVC line was inserted into his neck as part of his treatment. By January 4th, his condition had improved to the extent that it was considered he was well enough to be discharged to a ward.

On January 8th, 2019, the CVC line in his neck was removed and, it is claimed, an air bubble in his vein was allowed to occur and he immediately collapsed. It was claimed he suffered a catastrophic neurological injury which ultimately and tragically led to his death four days later on January 12th.

The details of the settlement are confidential and the case was before the court for the division of the statutory mental distress €35,000 solatium payment. Noting the settlement, Mr Justice Paul Coffey extended his deepest sympathy to Ms Best and the extended family.