Settlement for Brain-Damaged Girl Agreed upon in Court, HSE Admits Liability

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The court has agreed upon a €9 million settlement for a young girl who was left brain-damaged due to mismanagement of her birth, leaving her deprived of oxygen.

In April 2005, Alex Butler (10) was born at the Waterford Regional Hospital. Due to medical staff mismanaging her birth, she was deprived of oxygen, and born “blue and lifeless”. The staff at the hospital were able to resuscitate her, but as a consequence of the lack of oxygen in the womb, she is tetraplegic and requires the care of her parents for the rest of her life.

On behalf of her brain-damaged daughter, Sonya Butler made a claim against the Health Service Executive (HSE), her obstetrician John Bermingham for severe birth injuries compensation. She also made a further claim against the locum Mahmud Khbuli, who had not called for the necessary emergency Caesarean Section when Alex’s heart rate-dropped in the womb.

The HSE admitted liability for the injuries, but the case against John Bermingham and Mahmud Khbuli was dismissed in court. In 2013, the family received €1.4 million in interim compensation, and the case was adjourned so that a sum for the final settlement could be assessed.

It took over two weeks for the State Claims Agency to agree to a final settlement of €9 million for the severe birth injuries compensation, despite the defendants admitting liability and issuing a public apology. According to Sonya, their attitude to the case was “disgusting”.

“They fought tooth and nail” Sonya said in a statement to the press. “They basically want Alex to have an existence, not a life. They want her to scrape by with the bare minimum rather than her having the life that she should have had.”

In response to Sonya’s allegation, the State Claims Agency issued a statement which read: “The State Claims Agency recognises that clinical negligence cases involve patients who have suffered enormous trauma and pain. The Agency is acutely conscious that it has a duty to act fairly, ethically and with compassion in all its dealings with these patients and their families.”

The State Claims Agency’s statement further commented on the lack of a structured settlement system: “The Agency has frequently stated that the current legal system for resolving medical negligence cases is not fit for purpose and has been to the forefront in introducing reforms to make the process easier for the families involved.”

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