HSE ordered to pay €14m to man with locked-in syndrome

Parents say approach taken by State and HSE put enormous stress on family


A man with locked-in syndrome following an operation at Cork University Hospital has secured a total €14.1 million under a settlement of his High Court action against the HSE.

Mr Justice Michael Moriarty awarded a lump sum of €10 million to meet the future care needs of 32-year-old Eoin O’Mahony, Blarney, Co Cork, which, following earlier payments totalling €4.1 million, brings the final settlement sum to €14.1 million.

The payment is amongst the highest awards paid out in catastrophic injury cases.

Mr O’Mahony was a 17-year old Leaving Certificate student in 2001 when he experienced headaches. He was admitted to Cork University Hospital where brain surgery was carried out.

After the surgery, he lapsed into a coma-like state.

He now has devastating brain injuries and is quadriplegic. He cannot even use his finger to press a button if he needs help and essentially suffers from locked-in syndrome, the court was told.

Five -ears ago, he settled his High Court action against the HSE., which conceded liability, on terms including an interim payment of €2.9 million. He secured a further interim payment of €1.2 million in 2012.

The final award is intended to address his Eoin’s future care needs and ends a fourteen year legal battle for his family.

His parents Edmund and Karen O’Mahony, Station Road, Blarney, had last year appealed to the court to finalise the case with a capital lump sum payment. Their plea came after thirteen years in litigation and a nineteen-day hearing concerning Eoin’s future care needs.

In his action, it was alleged Eoin sustained traumatic brain injuries after a hospital procedure.

The court was told that, on November 23rd 2001, following complaints of headaches, he was referred to Cork University Hospital, Wilton and readmitted four days later when he underwent a procedure to reduce pressure on the brain.

On November 30th, he underwent another procedure and partial removal of a tumour but on December 1st 2001, lapsed into a coma.

In a ruling last November in relation to Eoin’s future care needs, Mr Justice Moriarty said the long-established professional regime to take care of Eoin at night was reasonable.

He also ruled the role of a service co-ordinator in relation to his care should be continued.

The judge had asked the sides to address him on specific items of expenditure at a later date and stressed he did not want any further delays beyond the absolute minimum for the parties, particularly the O’Mahonys.

In court on Monday, the judge outlined the total award for future care and said his judgment giving the breakdown figures for that will be available in the next few days.

Outside court, Eoin’s parents said the approach taken by the State and HSE in the case had put enormous stress and strain on the family financially and emotionally.

Karen O’Mahony said this happened “when we were at out weakest, consumed with the 24 hour care of Eoin.”

She said she and her husband had struggled for fourteen years to achieve the best possible care for their son and for the last ten years “have battled in Eoin’s interest against the might of the State and the HSE through three High Court trials”.

“It is time for candour and honesty to prevail and to be openly displayed by hospitals, consultants and doctors. It is time that these tragic cases are dealt with promptly, honestly and sympathetically by the State.”

It was time people like Eoin “are treated with respect and honesty and are facilitated to lead as fulfilling a life as possible”, she said.

Despite his profound difficulties, Eoin was doing well, she said.

“Although he has locked in syndrome and is quadriplegic, he very much enjoys the company of family and friends. He loves music and likes to go to concerts, plays, cinema and matches”.

Eoin makes the most of his life with the help of his highly motivated team of personal assistants, nurses, home helps and therapists, she added.