Hospital apologises for death of child (2)


OUR LADY’S Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, Dublin has apologised before the High Court over failures in the care of a haemophiliac child who died after undergoing a medical procedure in the hospital.

Pierce Nowlan died on October 14th, 2004, in the arms of his mother, Jean, accompanied by his father, Stephen, just three days after his second birthday.

The death of the couple’s first child occurred after an artery was punctured during attempts to insert a device into a vein.

In an apology read yesterday before Mr Justice John Quirke and the parents, the hospital said it wished to extend its “sincere and heartfelt sympathies” to the Nowlan family over the death of Pierce.

“The hospital acknowledges that the care which was afforded to Pierce was, in many respects, not as it should have been and not as Pierce or his parents were entitled to expect,” the apology stated.

“The hospital deeply regrets and apologises to Mr and Mrs Nowlan and their family for the failures in the care of Pierce. The hospital appreciates and greatly regrets the huge trauma and suffering of the Nowlan family resulting from the tragic death of their son.”

The apology was read by Emily Egan SC, for the hospital, after the judge was informed by Martin Hayden SC, with Jim McCullough, for the family, of the settlement of the case. The parents will also receive an undisclosed sum in damages.

Mr Nowlan, a credit manager, and Mrs Nowlan, a recruitment consultant, Carrigmore Green, Citywest, Saggart, Co Dublin, had brought the proceedings against the HSE and the hospital.

In a statement read outside court, the parents said their child went into hospital for a “standard” procedure and died there.

“We had one question for the medical staff involved in his care which was – how did this happen?” they said. “It has taken seven years, a High Court action and the Coroner’s Act to be amended to finally get the answer, an admission of liability and an apology.

“As grieving parents, we should not have had to meet a wall of silence and a culture of denial from the hospital. We put our trust in the hospital and they failed us and our son, Pierce.”

They also intended to make a complaint to the Medical Council about a particular surgeon, they said.

“Nothing will ever bring our son back and we will miss him every day for the rest of our lives. But, if the hospital has learned that it needs to improve its procedures and how it provides information to grieving families, at least something positive will come out of this terrible tragedy.”

Pierce was diagnosed with haemophilia when he was a week old and he required regular treatment as a result. He was admitted to the hospital on October 10th, 2004, for insertion of an implantafix device but, during that procedure, an artery was punctured.

He suffered cardiac arrest on October 11th and severe brain damage and was declared dead on October 14th.

In their claim, the parents alleged the hospital owed a duty of care to properly inform them of the risks associated in inserting an implantafix device in an infant with haemophilia and was also required to obtain an informed consent from the parents to conduct such an operation.

The failure to properly insert the device without puncturing an artery led to the child suffering severe injury and loss of life, they claimed.

The parents said that from 4.15pm on October 11th, three unsuccessful attempts were made to insert the device with the third attempt resulting in an arterial puncture. The device was ultimately implanted in the child’s left jugular vein.

The child began to show signs of increasing pulse, he required intravenous fluids and his condition continued to deteriorate. He suffered cardiac arrest at 9.35pm and a sternotomy was performed and cardiac massage. Pierce was transferred to the intensive care unit where brain stem tests confirmed he was brain dead.

The parents said they were told on October 14th that Pierce was confirmed brain dead, that he would not survive without a ventilator and they should decide if the breathing tube should be removed.

Mrs Nowlan, in the company of her husband, held the child in her arms as the tube was removed and he died immediately afterwards.