Family settle action over death of woman after reaction to antibiotic for €400,000

Family Settle Action Over Death Of Woman After Reaction To Antibiotic For €400,000
Elizabeth Murphy went into anaphylactic shock in her Kilkenny home after taking the antibiotic prescribed by her doctor.
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High Court reporters

A hospital has offered “sincerest apologies” following the tragic death of a 76-year-old woman who collapsed and died after taking a certain type of antibiotic.

Elizabeth Murphy went into anaphylactic shock in her Kilkenny home, in front of her husband and daughter, and died after taking the antibiotic prescribed by her doctor.


The High Court was told on Thursday that University Hospital Waterford had not included in Mrs Murphy’s hospital discharge papers just months before that she had an anaphylactic reaction to that antibiotic in hospital and had collapsed, requiring adrenaline and other treatment.

The family’s counsel, Jeremy Maher SC, instructed by Cian O’Carroll solicitors, told the court the death of the mother of five and grandmother to 12 from Pilltown, Co Kilkenny was truly tragic and should never have happened.

He said it was their case that the discharge summary from the hospital to Mrs Murphy’s GP did not record that she had an anaphylactic shock after taking that antibiotic in hospital and put her collapse down to something else. He said the HSE admitted a breach of duty on this matter.

Counsel said there was pandemonium and panic after Mrs Murphy’s collapse at home in January 2019 and, despite valiant efforts from family and neighbours, she died.


Counsel said Mrs Murphy, her family, or GP did not know she had previously collapsed after taking the same antibiotic in the Waterford hospital in September 2018.

The Murphy family, including Mrs Murphy’s husband of 47 years, Sean Murphy, settled an action against the HSE over the death and for nervous shock for a total of €400,000 on Friday.


In the apology read to the court, University Hospital Waterford offered its sincerest apologies following the tragic death of Mrs Murphy and said it acknowledged that the experience was devastating for the family “and continues to have a profound and lasting effect”.

It confirmed that recommendations made by the coroner who held an inquest into the pensioner’s death had been implemented, including an electronic-only reporting initiative implemented and where test results for discharged patients are followed up.


Counsel said it was “some comfort” for the Murphy family to “know lessons had been learned from the tragic death of Mrs Murphy”.

In the proceedings against the HSE, it was claimed Mrs Murphy was taken by ambulance to the hospital in September 2018 complaining of pain in her neck and shoulder and breathlessness.

She was admitted to University Hospital Waterford for a cardiological assessment and investigation, and was noted to be allergic to penicillin and that the type of allergy was anaphylaxis.

On September 21st, 2018, following the administration of a certain type of antibiotic, Mrs Murphy suffered an anaphylactic reaction. She collapsed and became unresponsive and adrenalin and other medication had to be administered.


That use of that antibiotic was discontinued, and she was given an alternative. She was discharged from hospital five days later and brought back the next month for review.

It was claimed during the consultation no reference was made to her anaphylactic reaction or collapse.

On January 29th, 2019, she attended her GP complaining of pain in her back radiating into her shoulder and chest, and she was prescribed the same antibiotic she had in hospital.

She took the tablet at home, and it was claimed she suffered a severe anaphylactic reaction. She was taken to hospital where she was pronounced dead on January 30th, 2019.

It was claimed that in the hospital discharge summary for Mrs Murphy there was a failure to record that she had the anaphylactic allergy to that type of antibiotic and a failure to advise her or her GP that she had suffered the anaphylactic reaction to it.

Noting the settlement, Ms Justice Emily Egan offered her condolences to the family on what she said was their appalling loss.

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