Emmet Halley represented a lady who lost her husband tragically when he died suddenly at their home on 17th July 2014. He was working as a farm labourer, and driving a tractor, when he suffered a collapse on 1st June 2014.
He ended up being taken to South Tipperary General Hospital by ambulance. He was discharged with a differential diagnosis of either gastritis or having suffered a syncope episode. On discharge from the hospital he was given a 24-hour heart monitor to wear. His complaints of chest pain worsened, and he presented again at the hospital and was provided with a second monitor for overnight monitoring. He returned this monitor the following day as planned, yet he was still complaining of severe pain. He was referred to the A&E department, but his complaints were not followed up or taken seriously.
No immediate studies of the results of the monitoring were undertaken. Unfortunately, he died suddenly at home on 17th July, and was found, dead on the kitchen floor, by his wife that afternoon when she returned from work.
Expert medical opinion established that there was a breach of duty on the part of the hospital on 2 grounds, namely:-
- There was no proper follow up to ascertain the actual cause of his collapse on the 1st June. The episode should have been identified as a probable cardiac issue and proper cardiac assessment should have followed.
- Because he was continuing to complain of persistent and worsening chest pain, red flag signs should have been identified by 11th July and the deceased put on appropriate medication to regulate the heart rhythm and reduce risk of cardiac arrest.
In their Defence, the HSE admitted that there was a breach of duty in the care of the deceased from 1st June to the date of his death and it is expressly admitted that he should have been reviewed by a medical specialist during this period and that the readings of the monitor for the 12th July ought to have been accurately assessed there and then, and the deceased admitted for urgent cardiac treatment.
Causation was in issue in that it was likely that the HSE would argue that, even with the best of care, the deceased would have had a reduced life expectancy, given his severe coronary problems.
Two headings of claim were brought by his widow, namely a loss of dependency claim as a result of the death of her husband and furthermore, a claim for nervous shock.
A substantial sum of money was achieved in settling this tragic case for a young widow who was left with her only daughter. In addition and most importantly from her point of view, the hospital gave a written apology in the following terms:-
“On behalf of the management and staff at South Tipperary General Hospital, I wish to express our apology to you and to your family for the hospital shortcomings in the care which it provided to Mr ____. We deeply regret these shortcomings and the death of Mr _______ on 17th July 2014. We acknowledge the distress and trauma caused to you and we offer our sincere and heartfelt condolences.
(Deputy General Manager)”