Girl (4) awarded €1.3m for birth injury

Court hears claim of excessive administration of drug during delivery

A severely disabled four-year-old girl with cerebral palsy has secured an interim payment of €1.3 million under a settlement of her action over alleged negligence in the circumstances of her birth at Letterkenny General Hospital.

Sarah McFeely, through her mother Bronagh Colhoun, Cill Grien, Lismonaghhan, Letterkenny, had sued the HSE over alleged negligent treatmetn of the mother's pregnancy and her daughter's birth in September 2008.

Mr Justice Sean Ryan was told the settlement involved an initial payment of €1.3 million and the case will return to court in three years time to address future care costs.

In the action, it was claimed Ms Colhoun went into labour on September 27th, 2008 and went to Letterkenny General Hospital where she was seen by a midwife and an examination was later carried out.

The drug syntocinon, used to induce labour, was commenced at 2.30pm. At 4pm, the CTG showed a marked change in character and it was claimed there was hyperstimulation and a doctor advised discontinuance of syntocinon, it was claimed. An epidural was requested and given at around 6pm and the syntocinon recommenced.

It was claimed the epidural was not fully effective and the mother continued to be distressed. It was further claimed, despite this, the rate of syntocinon was further increased.

A vacuum delivery started at nearly ten minutes to midnight but Sarah was not born until 39 minutes later after, it was claimed, different vacuum cups had to be reapplied.

It was claimed there was excessive administration of syntocinon to the mother and a failure to recognise the hyper stimulation. There was a failure to deliver the baby at the earliest possible opportunity and by caesarean section, she claimed.

Des O’Neill SC, for Sarah, said she has dyskinetic cerebral palsy affecting all of her body with no movement on her right side. The proceedings were begun in 2010 after no explanation was forthcoming to the mother from the HSE, he said.

In an open letter last year, the HSE conceded liability and the case was before the High Court for assessment of damages only.

Ms Colhuon, a nurse, has cared for her daughter since birth, counsel added.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Ryan said it seemed a highly satisfactory one from Sarah’s point of view.

Afterwards, Damien Tansey, solicitor for Sarah's parents Ray McFeely and Ms Colhoun, said they were delighted and relieved the case was over but disappointed it took the HSE two years to admit liability.

“The parents have demonstrated enormous courage and enormous emotional stamina to get this far. There are a lot of pitfalls along the way, and the costs are just astronomical, and they deserve enormous credit for staying the course.. They couldn’t have done it without the help that was forthcoming from the enlarged family and they are indebted to that,” he said.

Sarah is a very bright, lively child, Mr Tansey added.