Boy settles case over alleged birth injuries for €1.14m over five years

HSE denied his claims and maintained its care was in line with accepted medical standards

The HSE has agreed to pay €1.14 million over five years as part of the settlement of a High Court case over the circumstances of a boy’s birth.

The boy, who cannot be named, exhibits developmental delay, is non-verbal and has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. His personal injuries case, brought via his mother against the HSE, alleged he was acutely deprived of air during his birth at University Maternity Hospital Limerick in 2018 and that he developed hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy.

The HSE denied the claims and maintained that its treatment of the boy and his mother were in accordance with accepted medical standards.

Liam Reidy, instructed by Paul Kelly of Cian O’Carroll Solicitors, for the boy, told the court there is a dispute about whether the boy would have suffered from neurodevelopment issues regardless of his birth circumstances. The court heard the boy’s sibling is also autistic but his neurodevelopmental problems are not nearly as profound.

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The €1.14 million sum represented 70 per cent of the amount sought, the court heard.

Mr Justice Paul Coffey approved the settlement of €1.14 million, which is to cover the boy’s needs for the next five years. The case will then return to court regarding his future needs.

The judge commended the boy’s “remarkable” parents for how they have dealt with “extraordinary” challenges.

Earlier, he heard the boy’s mother had a body mass index in the obese range, gestational diabetes and other risk factors that should have indicated she needed a birth plan. She was admitted to the hospital where monitoring of the foetus’s heart rate returned abnormal results on various occasions, said Mr Reidy.

The baby was born by C-section at about 7.20am the next day and was later transferred to the neonatal unit due to hypoglycaemia and raised lactate, the court heard.

The case alleged negligence and a breach of duty on the part of the HSE. It claimed there was a failure to deliver the baby by elective C-section following the mother’s admission and a failure to carry out emergency C-sections at later stages amid “non-reassuring” foetal heart rate results.

The action also alleged there were deficiencies in post-birth examinations of the baby and maintenance of his blood sugar levels. It claimed the HSE permitted the boy’s hypoglycaemia to become profound.

The HSE rejected all of the contentions and claimed that, although there were some shallow foetal heart rate decelerations at about 3pm the day before delivery, the monitoring was overall “reassuring”. Later, there was a “suspicious” result but it normalised and a decision was “reasonably” made to defer delivery until standard theatre hours at 8am, the HSE said.

It denied the boy suffered hypoxic ischemic encephalopathy and further denied this caused his alleged injuries and autism. It said the evidence “at most” supports the occurrence of mild perinatal stress. The HSE rejected the contention that any of its actions or omissions caused the boy to suffer his alleged injuries and autism.

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan

Ellen O'Riordan is High Court Reporter with The Irish Times