High Court reporters
The family of a 22-year-old man with cerebral palsy who was discharged from a hospital despite his protestations that he needed to be there and who later died has settled a High Court action against the HSE.
John Smith presented to Cavan General Hospital’s emergency department three times in a five-day period, the High Court heard, and on the third occasion, a diagnosis of sepsis was made. The young man’s condition deteriorated, suffering from septic shock.
The family’s counsel, Bruce Antoniotti SC, said he had a bacterial infection which led do the condition, noting by the time it was diagnosed, it was too late and could not be treated. The court heard Mr Smith died on August 31st, 2019, of multi system organ failure.
Counsel told the court that Mr Smith had been discharged the second time from Cavan General Hospital after he was treated for an infection, despite the fact that there were indicators, including raised inflammatory markers and a fast heart rate.
Counsel said despite protestations from Mr Smith and his family that he needed to stay in hospital, he was discharged on the second occasion on August 23rd, 2019.
Counsel said the family were concerned about the “absolute non communication of doctors and nurses”. “They would not listen and refused to accept that Mr Smith was so ill he could not be discharged,” Mr Antoniotti added.
In a letter of apology, which was read to the court, Cavan General Hospital said it wished to offer “our sincerest apologies to your family and to your extended family following the tragic death of your dear son John, and acknowledge the failings on behalf of the hospital”.
The letter from the hospital general manager, Suzann O’Callaghan, continued: “We acknowledge that the experience was devastating for you and understand that this apology cannot negate the deep effect the loss of your son has had on your lives or in any way makes up for this tragic loss.”
It added the hospital has implemented recommendations to ensure a similar situation does not occur again.
Noting the settlement and the division of the statutory €35,000 mental distress payment, Mr Justice Paul Coffey, who heard that John had studied at third-level and was a qualified network technician, said it was a very tragic case and Mr Smith “was truly a wonderful young man”.
John’s father, Sean Smith, of Stragella, Cavan, had sued the HSE over the care given to his son when he attended Cavan General Hospital ED in August 2019. Liability was admitted in the case.
The deceased first presented at the hospital’s ED on August 20th, 2019, after he had been vomiting at home. He was discharged home on the same day, but remained unwell and devoid of energy.
He went back to the hospital again on August 22nd, and he was noted by clinicians to be overtly unwell with a marked tachycardia and was noted to be pale and obviously unwell.
He was admitted to a ward and was reviewed by both surgical and medical teams. He also had blood tests and CT imaging, and was positive for pathogenic coliforms and was treated with intravenous fluids.
He was discharged home the next day, August 23rd, 2019, but it was claimed the discharge was negligent and in breach of the standard of care which should have been afforded to him.
When he came back to hospital the next day, on August 24th, he had abdominal pain and fever in addition to his other symptoms and sepsis was diagnosed which required critical care management. He developed further complications and was later transferred for care in another hospital where he died on August 31st, 2019.