Case against hospital settled for €1.5m as mother calls for routine screening
The mother of a nine-year-old boy who has a neurological impairment after it was claimed he suffered from a rare complication during pregnancy has called for routine screening for the condition.
Ricci Meehan's mother appealed to hospitals to screen for a condition known as Vasa praevia, where blood vessles connecting the umbilical cord lie over or near the entrance to the birth canal.
The boy settled a High Court action today for an interim payment of €1.5 million. The settlement against the Rotunda Hospital was made without admission of liability.
Ricci Meehan, from north Dublin, had sued through his mother Maria Meehan over the care provided to his mother when she was pregnant. It was alleged there was a failure to diagnose Vasa praevia during the four ultrasound examinations during the pregnancy.
The Rotunda Hospital denied that it was negligent or in breach of duty not to diagnose the condition of the baby in utero as alleged.
The hospital contended that screening for Vasa praevia was neither indicated nor recommended nor in accordance with best practice. It argued appropriate guidelines at the time were that routine screening should not be performed.
The hospital said Vasa praevia was not identified nor diagnosed in the case and it would maintain that there was no Vasa praevia present.
Maria Meehan told the judge she hoped her son's case will bring changes in maternity hospitals and that the screening for Vasa praevia would take place at the 20-week scan.
"We love Ricci to bits. Hopefully this case will bring changes," she said.
The judge thanked Ms Meehan for her very powerful statement and said it could be of great value to countless other children.
Senior Cousel Aongus O'Brolchain told the court that in the US and Australia it is mandated to look for Vasa praevia when carrying out the scan at 20 weeks when sonographers look for certain defects or any anomaly, but it has not been the case here.
"Sonographers don't look for this; it's shocking they don't," he said.
He said it takes "20 seconds to one minute to find this abnormality". Counsel said at issue in the case was a foetal anatomy ultrasound scan carried out at 21 weeks and three days gestation in March 2012.
Approving the settlement Mr Justice Coffey conveyed his best wishes to Ricci and his family.
Afterwards solicitor Gillian O'Connor said the family were left with no choice but to settle the case as they could not take the risk of proceeding with a lengthy ten-week trial. She said the interim settlement will "transform" Ricci's and his family's life as it will allow them to buy a suitable house and provide respite care and badly needed therapies and equipment.
The case returns to court in five years when a further assessment of his life long needs will be made.
She said it was the second such case by her law firm and she was aware of other cases, adding that a change of practice was "urgently needed".
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