Fianna Fáil Public Expenditure and Reform Spokesperson Sean Fleming TD has called for the State Claims Agency and the HSE to instigate an urgent review of the manner in which it handles serious medical negligence cases on behalf of the State.
Deputy Fleming was speaking following the conclusion of a case in which a man suffering from “locked in syndrome” was awarded €10m in settlement of a case which had dragged on through the courts for 10 years.
“The facts of this case are very concerning. A family who were already dealing with the consequences of a catastrophic illness suffered by their son had to endure the additional trauma of a very protracted legal battle with the State before achieving a satisfactory award to meet his future medical needs,” said Deputy Fleming.
“I was particularly struck by the words of Karen O’Mahony, mother of Eoin O’Mahony, who said that the family “have battled in Eoin’s interest against the might of the State and the HSE through three High Court trials.”
“There is also a very serious issue with the length of time it takes to resolve these cases. This means that the ability to learn lessons from the mistakes made and the need to improve clinical practice is substantially reduced due to the passage of time. This is surely not the way for the State to deal with its citizens.
“Recently it was revealed that one legal firm specialising in medical negligence cases last year received nearly €7 million in fees from the State Claims Agency. In total €30 million was paid out to firm representing people taking negligence cases against the State last year.
“It is vital that the State secures value for money in the legal services it engages and in the legal services of others that it ends up paying for. There has been a consistent pattern of high profile negligence cases involving the HSE being settled on the steps of the Court, several years after the case was initially taken.
“Where there is clear evidence of wrongdoing, the State should deal with cases in a much more humane, timely and efficient manner. This would undoubtedly result in reduced legal fees. The huge legal fees involved in such cases brings in to sharp focus the failure of the government to deliver on the Legal Services Bill which promised to bring down legal costs,” concluded Deputy Fleming.