Hospital apologises as family settles action over death of woman (76) after taking antibiotic

Elizabeth Murphy went into anaphylactic shock after taking drug which had previously caused severe negative reaction

A hospital has offered its “sincerest apologies” following the death of a 76-year-old woman who collapsed and died after taking a type of antibiotic.

Elizabeth Murphy went into anaphylactic shock in her Co Kilkenny home in front of her husband and daughter and died after taking the antibiotic prescribed by her doctor.

The High Court was told that University Hospital Waterford (UHW) had not included in Ms Murphy’s hospital discharge papers just months before that she had an anaphylactic reaction to that antibiotic in hospital and had collapsed, leaving her requiring adrenaline and other treatment.

The family’s counsel, Jeremy Maher SC, instructed by Cian O’Carroll solicitors, told the court the death of Ms Murphy, a mother of five and grandmother to 12 from Pilltown, was truly tragic and should never have happened.


He said it was their case that the discharge summary from the hospital to Ms Murphy’s GP did not record that she had an anaphylactic shock after taking the antibiotic in hospital and put her collapse down to something else. He said the HSE admitted a breach of duty on this matter.

Counsel said there was pandemonium and panic after Ms Murphy’s collapse at home in January 2019. He said she died despite valiant efforts from family and neighbours to assist her.

Mr Maher said Ms Murphy, her family and GP did not know she had previously collapsed after taking the same antibiotic at UHW in September 2018.

The Murphy family, including Ms Murphy’s husband of 47 years, Seán Murphy, on Friday settled an action against the HSE over the death and for nervous shock for a total of €400,000.

In the apology read to the court, UHW offered its sincerest apologies and said it acknowledged that the experience was devastating for the family “and continues to have a profound and lasting effect”.

It confirmed that recommendations made by the coroner at the inquest into Ms Murphy’s death had been implemented. This included an electronic only reporting initiative and where test results for discharged patients are followed up. Mr Maher said it was “some comfort” for the Murphy family to “know lessons had been learned” from the tragedy.

In the proceedings against the HSE, it was claimed that Ms Murphy was taken by ambulance to the hospital in September 2018 complaining of pain in her neck and shoulder and breathlessness. She was admitted to UHW for a cardiological assessment and investigation. She was noted as being allergic to penicillin and that the type of allergy was anaphylaxis.

On September 21st, 2018, following the administration of a certain type of antibiotic, Ms Murphy suffered an anaphylactic reaction. She collapsed and became unresponsive and adrenalin and other medication was provided.

The provision of that antibiotic was discontinued and Ms Murphy was given an alternative. She was discharged from hospital five days later and brought back the next month for review. It was claimed that during the consultation no reference was made to her anaphylactic reaction or collapse.

On January 29th, 2019, she attended her GP complaining of pain in her back radiating into her shoulder and chest from and she was prescribed the same antibiotic she had in hospital.

She took the tablet at home and, it was claimed, suffered a severe anaphylactic reaction. She was taken to hospital where she was pronounced dead on January 30th, 2019.

It was alleged the hospital discharge summary for Mrs Murphy failed to record that she had the anaphylactic allergy to that type of antibiotic and that there was a failure to advise her or her GP she had suffered the anaphylactic reaction.

Noting the settlement, Ms Justice Emily Egan offered her condolences to the family on what she said was an appalling loss.