Case over treatment at birth settled for €1.75m

Young man allegedly suffered brain damage at Sligo General Hospital

Thomas O’Connor: settled his High Court action. PhotographCourts Collins

Thomas O’Connor: settled his High Court action. PhotographCourts Collins


A profoundly disabled young man who allegedly suffered brain damage during his birth and post-natal treatment at Sligo General Hospital has settled his High Court action for €1.75m.

Mr Justice Kevin Cross was told, under the settlement, 18-year-old Thomas O’Connor, who is spastic quadriplegic, blind and fed through a tube, will continue to be cared for at a residential home near his family home in Sligo. He has been in residential care since aged twelve and his mother visits him daily.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Kevin Cross said the legal ordeal for the O’Connor family was now over and he was delighted the case, which was at hearing for four weeks, had settled.

Through his mother Ann O’Connor, Ard Curley, Collooney, Co Sligo, Mr O’Connor sued the HSE over the management and care of his mother’s labour and his birth and care at Sligo General Hospital on September 6th, 1996.

It was alleged there was failure on the part of the HSE to ensure Mrs O’Connor was competently and properly managed, cared for and supervised during the course of her time at Sligo General Hospital.

It was also alleged there was failure to inform a consultant of abnormal CTG results in a timely fashion, alleged delay in carrying out a caesarean and a later allegedly ineffective resuscitation with a malpositioned tube.

The HSE denied all the claims.

Des O’Neill SC, for Mr O’Connor, said, as part of the settlement, the HSE guaranteed to pay the costs of Thomas’ care in the residential home.

Ann O’Connor said the family were very happy with the settlement and that her son’s future is secure.

“He is a happy contented boy. I visit him every day. Where he is staying is like a second home to him,” she told the judge.

Earlier, when the case opened in the High Court, Mr O’Neill said experts on the O’Connor side would say two alleged episodes of oxygen deprivation, one during his delivery and the second when he was less than one hour old, contributed to the brain damage which has left Thomas severely disabled.

Mr O’Neill said what happened was “extraordinary and inexplicable”. He said a CTG trace was discontinued at 5.30am and it was inappropriate to do so when the trace was displaying the baby was in distress. The CTG, counsel said, was recommenced at 7.00am.

Between 4.30am and 8.00am, there was clear evidence of foetal distress, counsel said. Mr O’Neill said the consultant examined Mrs O’Connor around 8.10am and an emergency caesarean was carried out at 9am. Counsel argued that was four hours later than should have been the case,

When Thomas was born, he showed no signs of life and four minutes later began gasping  and a tube was inserted to assist his ventilation and breathing, counsel said. The tube was inserted to a depth of 14cms and should have been put in at between 9 and 10 cms, he said.

Counsel said the baby was not effectively ventialated, had a heart attack and ceased to breathe on the way from the delivery theatre to the ICU at about 9.25am. Over the next thirty minutes, all efforts were made to revive the baby and it was not until 9.55am the location of the tube was discovered, he added.