Woman left ‘vegetative’ after cardiac arrest awarded €975,000

Pauline Carroll (65) put on chemotherapy by nurse despite insisting she should see doctor

A woman who was allegedly put on chemotherapy treatment for cancer by a nurse despite her insistence she should be seen by a doctor first has been awarded €975,000 in damages, the High Court has heard.

Pauline Carroll (65) is now in a permanent vegetative state after suffering a heart attack following the chemotherapy session which should not have gone ahead, the court heard.

On Friday Ms Carroll secured a settlement of her action against the HSE over the treatment at Midlands Regional Hospital, Tullamore, Co Offaly, in 2010. The HSE will also provide an indemnity for as long as she lives for her care in a nursing home, where she now lives.

The court heard liability was not conceded as there was an issue between the parties over whether the cardiac arrest, followed by brain damage, was caused by the chemotherapy treatment.


Ms Carroll, who worked as a psychiatric nurse, sued the HSE, through her husband Kevin Carroll, Killeen, Mountmellick, Co Laois, over the treatment she received on November 1st, 2010.

She suffered cardiac arrest and consequent brain damage, which would have been “entirely preventable” had the chemotherapy drug she was receiving not been switched to an other, it was claimed.

Good outcome

Mr Justice Kevin Cross told Ms Carroll’s husband it was a “very good legal outcome for what has been an unfortunate and tragic outcome” for his wife and their two sons.

Denis McCullough SC, for Ms Carroll, said she had been receiving chemotherapy since August 2010, after she had also undergone surgery earlier that year in relation to a tumour.

Counsel said that when she attended on November 1st, 2010, and checked in, a nurse who “had been rude to her on a previous occasion” commenced the next session of treatment even though Ms Carroll told her she had not seen a doctor.

The nurse told her that she “will be here until night” and commenced the treatment anyway. Counsel said the nurse was “grossly offensive” to her so much so that Ms Carroll became upset and had to be looked after by another nurse.

The treatment proceeded and after about an hour, she was then told the doctor was ready to see her. The doctor said her bloods were too low and the treatment should not be given for another week or two. The doctor was very annoyed it had already started but said it would have to continue.

On November 3rd, 2010, Ms Carroll suffered a cardiac arrest at home and was taken by ambulance to hospital where she suffered a second cardiac arrest causing the brain damage, counsel said.


It was their side’s argument that the chemotherapy regime should not have been changed in circumstances where it was known she had suffered cardiac pain on August 30th, 2010, and where both chemotherapy drugs she was put on were cardiotoxic, counsel said.

There was a full dispute on the facts as whether the chemotherapy treatment caused the cardiac arrest.

An expert witness for the Carrolls would say she should not have been given it as her bloods level (white cells) was 1.07 when it should be at least 1.5.

The HSE had argued giving the treatment at any level above 1.0 was perfectly reasonable, counsel said.

Mr McCullough said an important part of the settlement was that the HSE had agreed to indemnify her for care beyond the next three years. In those circumstances, the family were happy to accept the settlement, he said.