The High Court has approved a €35,000 payment to a mother whose baby died the day after he was delivered.
With the baby’s father, Charlie Picorro, mother Me Fe Ortiz sued The Guardians and Directors of the Coombe Lying-Hospital arising out of the death of their son, Angelo, on June 24th, 2017.
Mr Picorro, who was a healthcare worker at St James’s Hospital, died in a road traffic accident in April 2020, aged 46.
Ms Ortiz, of Abbelyands, Clane, Co Kildare, claimed their son died due to the negligence and breach of duty of the defendant.
The hospital denies this.
The “solatium” is a statutory compensation for distress following a death. It was approved by the Mr Justice Paul Coffey on Tuesday following settlement of the wider claim.
Sara Antoniotti SC, instructed by Augustus Cullen solicitors, asked the court to make an order directing that the €35,000 solatium would be paid only to Ms Ortiz in circumstances where Mr Picorro has died and other family members have waived their entitlement to the money.
Nightmares and panic attacks
Ms Ortiz had claimed in her action that, as of January 2018, she continued to suffer from feelings of guilt, panic attacks, nightmares and flashbacks to recurring images of her son in the incubator.
She alleged the hospital failed to properly manage and monitor her labour and the delivery of Angelo through emergency Caesarean section. She also alleged the hospital failed to carry out any adequate or timely observations regarding her condition following admission to hospital on June 23rd, 2017.
The mother said she suffered increasing abdominal pain for several hours on the day of the delivery. A midwife could not locate the foetal heart through ultrasound when examining her at about 8.40pm, when she was brought to a delivery suite, she claimed.
Angelo was delivered in an asphyxiated state just after 9pm, she said.
Breach of duty
The Coombe admitted a breach of duty only for its failure to undertake a midwifery assessment of Ms Ortiz at about 7.30pm on June 23rd. It denied that any findings of such an assessment would have shown evidence of placental abruption or led to earlier intervention that would have avoided Angelo’s death.
It denied the death was caused or contributed to by the admitted breach of duty in failing to undertake the 7.30pm assessment.
The hospital said in its defence that Angelo “tragically died [...] despite extensive resuscitation and care in the neonatal intensive care unit”.
It said it and its staff complied with general and approved medical practice in the care and treatment of Ms Ortiz and her late son. Monitoring, observations and surveillance of her before her distress were appropriate where initial foetal heart rate monitoring was “normal and reassuring”, the defence added.
It also said there was no clinical evidence to suggest the foetus was compromised prior to the placental abruption which caused hypoxic-ischaemic insult shortly before 9pm. The ischaemic injury and placental abruption resulted in catastrophic foetal brain and multi-organ injury, the hospital claimed.