Family to receive EUR35,000 for death of woman


The family of a woman who died after an operation at University College Hospital Galway are to receive €35,000 plus costs in settlement of their High Court action alleging negligence in her treatment there.

The dead woman, Ms Marie Kelly (34), of Garavogue Villas, Sligo, had previously contracted hepatitis C for which she received £135,000 compensation from the State in 1997, and in January 1998 she received a further £27,000 in aggravated damages.

Ms Kelly died on December 3rd, 1998. Her family claim this was as a result of negligence in her treatment for pneumonia at University College Hospital.

Ms Philomena Stapleton, a sister of Ms Kelly, took proceedings over her sister's death. On behalf of herself and her three brothers, Ms Stapleton, of Abbeyquarter, Sligo, claimed damages for mental distress, and loss and damage because of the alleged negligence of the defendants.

The action was brought against the North Western Health Board and three doctors: Dr Sinead O'Connor and Dr Marie Twomey, both care of Mount Kennett House, Henry Street, Limerick, and Dr John Joseph Gilmartin, a consultant physician, The Crescent, Galway. The defendants denied the claims.

Ms Stapleton said Ms Kelly was admitted to the hospital on November 11th, 1998, for investigation of left lower lobe pneumonia. It was decided to aspirate Ms Kelly's left lung for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes.

During that aspiration Ms Kelly's left lung was perforated, causing bleeding into the bronchus, it was claimed. This, it was alleged, caused Ms Kelly to suffer cardiac arrest and ultimately resulted in traumatic pneumothorax and a haemoptysis. She died on December 3rd, 1998.

It was alleged her death was a result of the treatment she received. It was claimed Ms Kelly was under the direction, control and supervision of Dr Gilmartin while at the hospital.

It was claimed that, prior to the complications, which allegedly caused Ms Kelly's death, Dr O'Connor had attempted an aspiration at a point indicated to her and to Dr Twomey as being the appropriate one.

It was alleged this attempt at aspiration was unsuccessful and that Dr Twomey then proceeded to use a large bore needle at a site adjacent to the original site. The carrying out of this further aspiration at the particular time was negligent, it was alleged.

It was alleged that both the board and Dr Gilmartin were negligent in failing to properly supervise the two other doctors and failing to direct that the further procedure should not be carried out without first having a scan performed.

In their defence, the board, Dr O'Connor and Dr Twomey denied all the claims and denied that the incident giving rise to Ms Kelly's death had occurred in this manner. They pleaded that if Ms Stapleton suffered the distress alleged, which they denied, then this arose solely because of the failure of Dr Gilmartin to advise that the aspiration procedure be carried out with the aid of an ultrasound scan.

In his defence, Dr Gilmartin denied all the claims and denied any negligence on his part in the treatment of Ms Kelly.

Mr Justice Johnson was asked to approve a settlement of €35,000 plus costs in the case. The judge approved a settlement of that amount.