A Dublin woman has been awarded a €140,000 compensation settlement for injuries she sustained after a vaginal swab was left inside her following the birth of her son.
Claire Lalor, from Swords, gave birth to her son at the National Maternity Hospital on the 24th December 2012. The labour had been long and difficult, and despite her discharge three days after the delivery, Claire returned to the hospital twice more over the next few weeks. She was presenting with severe pains in her abdomen and had an unpleasant odour coming from her vagina.
However, on neither visit to the hospital was an internal examination of Claire conducted. On her second visit, she was prescribed antibiotics as the doctors suspected she was suffering from an infection. However, the antibiotics did not relieve her symptoms and a week later Claire returned to the hospital. Finally, it was discovered that a vaginal swab – which is used during delivery to stem bleeding – had been left inside of her after her birth.
Once the swab was removed, Claire still experience pain and discomfort. On the 18th January, she returned to the National Maternity Hospital. There, she received a diagnosis of post-natal depression. Yet she continued to deteriorate in condition and began experiencing chills, diarrhoea and was sweating.
Claire then went to Beaumont Hospital, where she was diagnosed with a C. difficile infection. This was the result of an unnecessary prescription of antibiotics. Once she overcame the infection, she began to make a claim for medical negligence compensation against The National Maternity Hospital for the vaginal swab left behind her.
The hospital admitted liability for Claire’s injuries, both through the left vaginal swab and the unnecessary antibiotics. However, they disputed the extent to which Claire was emotionally scarred. They argued that the emotional trauma that she suffered was because of post-natal depression rather than as a consequence of her injuries. The dispute continued, and as such the case proceeded to the High Court so that Mr Justice Kevin Cross could assess the damages.
After hearing the evidence from both parties, Judge Cross ruled that Claire’s difficult labour significantly increased the likelihood that she would be suffering from post-natal depression. As such, he attributed her continuing emotional distress to some underlying condition.
The judge went on to clarify that, despite his earlier comments, he believed that if Claire had received adequate post-natal care she would have recovered from her depression quicker and that the injuries she sustained by the remaining swab caused her to be “entirely appropriately extremely distressed”. He finished by awarding Claire €140,000 in compensation.