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Woman gets €600k settlement over alleged negligence in knee care

16-Nov-2018


An elderly woman who requires 24-hour care as an alleged result of alleged negligence in her care and treatment after she suffered a knee injury has secured a €600,000 settlement of her High Court action.

Mary Sheehan, now aged 78, was a very active and "remarkably independent" woman wholly responsible for the care of one of her adult children, who has special needs, before the alleged negligent events, her counsel Oonagh McCrann SC said.

Now Ms Sheehan, a widow, is a person of unsound mind who is cared for at home on a full-time basis by her six children, counsel said.

The settlement for Ms Sheehan, of Kilcoran, Cahir, Co Tipperary, is against the Health Services Executive and Dr Imran Yousuf Sharif, an orthopaedic surgeon who performed an arthroscopy procedure on her left knee at the Hermitage Clinic, Co Dublin.

It was claimed the arthroscopy procedure of July 1, 2014 was unnecessary and inappropriate and should not have been carried out for reasons including Ms Sheehan had hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, high blood pressure and was on multiple cardiac medications.

The case against the HSE, brought over her care at various hospitals, was that alleged septic arthritis in the left knee was not diagnosed in time.

The claims were denied.

Disputed

Ms Sheehan's injuries was strongly disputed for reasons including she had suffered an out of hospital cardiac arrest on July 6, 2014.

The settlement offer, which represented about half the value of the claim, was recommended primarily because of an anticipated major battle over causation.

Margaret Sheehan, a daughter of Ms Sheehan, told Mr Justice Kevin Cross the family understood the matter was very complex and were accepting the offer.

“We have lived through it and have tried to do the best we could,” she said. Her mother, she added, “is incredible, anyone else would have died”.

The judge praised Ms Sheehan, a nurse, and the family for the excellent care provided by them and said he would approve the settlement. An application will be made later to have Ms Sheehan made a ward of court.

The case arose after Ms Sheehan, then aged 74, suffered a fall in February 2014. She fell to the ground and injured her nose and two knees and, over the following weeks and months, the pain in her left knee got worse.

Ms McCrann said she attended a doctor who decided she needed septoplasty and possibly treatment for her left knee. The doctor also decided, because of her pre-existing conditions, Ms Sheehan was not a candidate for general anaesthetic and there was no issue about that.

She later attended Dr Sharif who advised she required an arthroscopy of her left knee which was performed by him on July 1, 2014.

Cardiac Arrrest

She was discharged home the next day but was taken by ambulance to South Tipperary General Hospital (STGH) four days later after a daughter found her unwell and unresponsive at home. She had suffered cardiac arrest.

Ten days later she was transferred to Cork University Hospital, transferred back to STGH in early August and on August 8 from the STGH to the Hermitage clinic. After an aspirate of the left knee was performed by Dr Sharif, she was transferred back to STGH.

In late August, a left knee aspirate at STGH revealed an infection and, following other reviews and hospital transfers, a consultant orthopaedic foot and ankle surgeon told her in October 2014 her left knee, specifically the bone, was infected.

His recommendation to remove the infected bone, followed by fusion surgery, was endorsed by another consultant and she had that surgery in November 2015 at University Hospital, Waterford.

After convalescence at another hospital, she was discharged home about December 22, 2015 where she required 24-hour care.

It was alleged her care and treatment was not appropriately managed by the defendants and, as a consequence of the alleged negligence, she suffered injury, loss and damage.