Family of woman who died of sepsis secures €68,000 in court action

Court heard claim that Rose O’Malley’s death was due to having PEG feeding tube removed

The family of a woman who died of sepsis due to peritonitis has secured a €68,000 settlement of their action against the HSE over alleged negligence in her treatment.

The family of 72-year-old Rose O’Malley, who had a history of pancreatitis, alleged her death was due to a PEG feeding tube having moved, causing her to suffer septic shock.

Mr Justice Garrett Simons on Monday approved the settlement arising from the death of Mrs O'Malley, a widowed mother of six, of St Patrick's Avenue, Crossmolina, Co Mayo, at Connolly Hospital, Blanchardstown, Dublin, on March 19th 2015.

The settlement includes the full €35,000 solatium - the statutory payment under the Civil Liability Act - some €8,402 special damages, and the rest in measured legal costs.


Catherine O'Malley, of Latchford Green, Clonee, Dublin, a daughter of the deceased, took the case on behalf of the family, who were represented by Alistair Rutherdale BL, instructed by Callan Tansey Solicitors.

It was alleged there was negligence surrounding the insertion, monitoring and application of a PEG tube leading to the untimely death of Mrs O’Malley.

Mrs O’Malley had a history of cholecystitis, inflammation of the gallbladder, in the early 1990s and was referred in July 2012 by her GP to Mayo General Hospital with abnormal liver functions tests. She underwent an MRI scan and it was later decided to proceed with ERCP, a procedure to diagnose and treat problems in the liver and gallbladder which involves a combination of X-ray and endoscope, a long, flexible, lighted tube.

Mrs O’Malley underwent surgery in October 2012 at Mayo General Hospital and it was claimed a decision to leave gall stones in place allowed a risk of further problems, including acute pancreatitis.

Outlining the core claim today, Mr Rutherdale said their case was that Mrs O’Malley, having attended the Blanchardstown hospital on December 27th 2014 with symptoms including vomiting, should not have been discharged on December 30th.

She was readmitted on January 5th and diagnosed with pancreatitis and pneumobilia.

Counsel said their case was she was making a slow recovery and, as part of that, had had a PEG feeding tube inserted on March 13th 2015. It seemed that tube had moved and peritonitis was ultimately the main case of her death on March 15th 2015, he said.

His side’s case was, had the tube not moved, Mrs O’Malley would have continued to recover and would not have died. However, because there were no precise records concerning the tube insertion, his medical expert was unable to come to a conclusive opinion on that.

In the circumstances, a €68,000 settlement was agreed and court approval was necessary for aspects of that.

Mr Justice Simons approved the settlement and directed it be paid to the family’s solicitor David O’Malley, whom he was told is related to the deceased, for distribution of sums as already agreed between the family.

In a statement afterwards, the family said they took the case “to highlight the deficiencies” in their mother’s care and because they did not wish other people to be treated in that way.

Mrs O’Malley was a wonderful community woman who is sorely missed by her family and community, the statement added.

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan

Mary Carolan is the Legal Affairs Correspondent of the Irish Times