Hospital apologizes with €15m for poor services rendered to autistic child at birth

The Coombe Hospital Dublin has apologised to a teenage boy with autism and his family for the failings in care after his birth.

The apology was read out in the High Court as the young man, who cannot be named, has settled his legal action for €15m.

His counsel Dr John O’Mahony SC, with Cian O’Mahony BL, told the court it was the biggest settlement in such a case where it was sought to establish an alleged link between autism and brain injury.

The settlement includes an uplift clause pending a decision in another High Court case in relation to the rate of return.

Liability was conceded in part of the case but claims in relation to an alleged link to autism were denied.

Letter of apology

In a letter to the family, which was read to the court, the Master of the Coombe Hospital, Professor Michael O’Connell, offered sincere apologies on behalf of the staff “for the failings in care that caused injury”.

The letter added: “We in the hospital understand and sincerely regret that our failings in care have led to lifelong consequences, not only for the boy but also for his parents and family.”

It was claimed in court that the boy had an infection and developed meningitis. In the months after his birth, he was noted to have developmental delay and hearing loss. He was later diagnosed with autism.

The case centred on an alleged delay in recognising and responding, including giving antibiotics when the baby began to show signs of infection after his delivery.

Counsel told the court it was their case that at 15 hours, the baby’s infection should have been identified and treated and, if this had happened, he would not have suffered meningitis.

He had through his mother sued the Coombe Women’s Hospital, Cork Street, Dublin over his care after his birth.

Alleged failure to respond

It was claimed there was an alleged failure to respond to maternal evidence of infection as a factor in treating the baby with antibiotics.

It was also claimed there was an alleged failure to appreciate the significance of the baby’s early features of infection and an alleged failure to exclude meningitis.

It was further claimed there was an alleged failure to urgently seek paediatric opinion when they knew if ought to have known that it was urgently required.

There was it was claimed a failure to prescribe and administer antibiotics for the baby in sufficient time.

The boy later showed development delay and had difficulty with his hearing and language, as well as co-ordination difficulties.

Approving the settlement, Mr Justice Paul Coffey wished the family well.