Friday 14 October 2016

€3.5 million win!

About 1.5 million people in Ireland play the Lotto every week. That's more or less one in three including children and others who cannot buy tickets - because they are too old, too demented, too far from a shop or too poor to afford the price of the ticket. Actually, strike that last category, there are many many people who cannot afford the Lotto but buy into the fantasy aNNyway. Comfortable people with no children, some facility with numbers and a warm house call the Lotto the Idiot Tax.  If you do the math you can calculate that the chance of you winning big is vanishingly small but nevertheless somebody wins almost every week. For the brief time between buying the ticket [minimum punt recently went up to €4] and finding out that the winner lives in Sligo, you can dream of paying off the mortgage; getting home-help for your aged father; sending the kids to college or buying a drink for everyone in the office.

When, with half an ear a couple of days ago, I heard '€3,500,000' and 'payment' in the same sentence I thought it was a [modest, in the scale of things] Lotto win. Until I twigged that it was Tuesday and not a Lotto day and that I had mis-heard 'payment' for 'settlement'.  When I next found time for a bit of news-research, I turned up a very badly written report from RTE about Leon Keogh, whose mother had a difficult birth in the Rotunda in 1991 and had just had a successful suit against the Ob&Gyn consultant, the midwives, the Rotunda and the Health Service Executive. Claiming that the staff failed to pay sufficient attention to the CTG trace [that's Cardiotocography aka electronic fetal monitor EFM]:
to appreciate that Leon was in trouble inside. The medics denied any liability but agreed to pay €3.5 million because Leon's symptoms "partial epilepsy, attention deficit disorder and a mild general learning disability" were going to distress him and his mother and lay them open to expenses above and beyond those incurred by other families.

I googled further to see if I could get a better write-up of the case and uncovered instead / also a warren of similar cases:
  • ZS v HSE. born June 2006. Oxytocin errors. Went to trial. €3.5 million plus legal costs
  • Jude Miley, Jan 2012 suffered accident from thoracic surgery aged six months and suffered brain damage. Hospital accused of cover-up. Interim settlement €3.5 million in April 2016
  • Rebecca Hannon, born 19 May 1983, perinatal anoxia, cerebral palsy, €3.5 million settlement Nov 2007
  • Aaron Hanrahan, born 19 April 2004, several hours too late, CTG scan read errors resulting in  spastic quadriplegia and cerebral palsy. €3.5 million settlement May 2016
Those are just the cases on the first page of Google which are for €3.5 million. Larger recent settlements include

  • Nadine Wilkin born June 1996; cerebral palsy; no admission of liability; settled this week for €6 million
  • Mary Malle born October 1999; cerebral palsy;  final settlement April 2016 €5.56 million
  • Shane Kenny born Nov 2004; spastic cerebral palsy; liability admitted over mis-read CTG trace; final settlement 2013 €6 million

What is striking here is that  all of these cases took years to achieve resolution. There is evidence that early intervention and intensive physiotherapy can have benefits for children born with cerebral palsy. That treatment is expensive because there are too few qualified practitioners; and the HSE is extremely reluctant to pay for that sort treatment out of its enormous but no infinite budget. They much prefer to pay for liver transplants and open-heart surgery because the consultants think they look sexier, and have a far more powerful lobby, than humble physios. The delay shows culpable negligence far greater than the alleged negligence attributed to delay in implementing peri-natal intervention. Somehow, the HSE would rather pay huge amounts of money to the lawyers. Have you ever heard of a case against the HSE for cerebral palsy which they won? Maybe in the Utilitarian world of health accounting they find that these high profile cases show potential plaintiffs the level of exposure, time and effort that is required to achieve vindication. The dispossessed are effectively bullied into accepting their lot.

The other side of the coin [sic!] is that numerous other genetic and perinatal deficits cannot be laid at the door of any named person. You can't sue god for planting an extra chromosome in your child with The Downs [prev]; so all they get is a free medical card to handle a frightening clatter of contingent conditions [heart defects, leukaemia, Alzheimer's etc.]. And all the other unnamed, but equally debilitating distressing and long-term, conditions which cannot be dealt with in a paragraph over the signature of the Minister of Health? Why, they get nothing-at-all.

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