SJ –v– JW & BH
The Plaintiff in this case was first diagnosed with a brain tumour in November 2000. As the tumour was non-aggressive, a conservative management philosophy was implemented and her condition remained stable for a number of years. In 2003, the tumour progressed and she underwent tumour removal in the United States of America, followed by chemotherapy at a well known Hospital in Dublin. In January 2005, the Plaintiff was informed that she was in remission and remained so until June 2008 when she suffered a tumour recurrence. After numerous consultations with her medical team, it was decided that the Plaintiff would undergo a combined course of treatment involving Intensity Modulated Radiotherapy Treatment (IMRT), and chemotherapy with the drug Temozolomide. This treatment was to be carried out in the Second Named Defendant’s Hospital under the care of the First Named Defendant, her treating Oncologist. The radiotherapy treatment was scheduled to last for 34 individual sessions given over the course of 6/7 weeks. Chemotherapy in the form of the drug Temozolomide was to be taken every day for the duration of the radiation treatment. Tragically, due to an error in prescribing the chemotherapy, the Plaintiff received a dosage at least three times in excess of that intended for a significant period of time.
The medication error went unnoticed for 16 days of chemotherapy until eventually, the treatment was suspended and the Plaintiff was admitted to hospital. By this stage, the Plaintiff had sustained severe toxic side effects requiring admission to an isolation room. After 58 days in hospital, and 40 days in an isolation room, the Plaintiff was discharged. As a result of the overdosage, the long term adverse effects suffered by her included irreversible bone marrow suppression, destruction of her white blood cell count, and post traumatic stress disorder. This had significant consequences for any future treatment she would require, as her persistently low blood counts would not allow her tolerate any further chemotherapy, and severely limited any treatment options she would have available to her should her brain tumour progress.
Proceedings were issued in this matter on the 3rd of March 2010. Regrettably, in the final week of May 2010, we were informed that her brain tumour had recurred, and that her prognosis was poor. Given the exceptional circumstances of this case, an emergency application was made to the High Court to fast track the case and specially fix it for trial despite the fact that pleadings had not yet been closed. The case was specially fixed to commence on the 21st of July 2010.
The Plaintiff was required to fly to the USA to explore treatment options which were not available to her in Ireland as a result of the side effects suffered by her through the overdosage. On the 16th of July 2010, the Defendant Solicitors made an application to the High Court to adjourn the matter to the earliest available date in the Michaelmas term on the basis that they did not have sufficient opportunity to deal with our claims for the cost of care and loss of earnings. In making this application, they agreed to provide a substantial interim payment to the Plaintiff and the case was adjourned until October 2010. At this stage, the Defendants had admitted negligence in prescribing chemotherapy (Temozolomide), at a dosage significantly higher than that intended, but did not admit that the entirety of the adverse effects claimed by the Plaintiff were caused by this overdosage.
Settlement negotiations continued between the parties over the following months until eventually, a settlement was arrived at on the 13th October 2010. The substantial damages reflected the serious and severely debilitating injuries suffered by the Plaintiff which had profound and long term effects reaching far beyond the 58 days spent in hospital.
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18 January 2011