'I saw the chaos, I thought my wife and baby son were both gone': Man who sued CUMH over death of wife settles action for €1.25m

'I saw the chaos, I thought my wife and baby son were both gone': Man who sued CUMH over death of wife settles action for €1.25m

Dominic Casey pictured leaving the High Court in Dublin following a settlement in a case over the death of his wife at Cork University Maternity Hospital. Picture: Collins Courts

A man who sued over the death of his 38-year-old wife at Cork University Maternity Hospital days after her first baby was delivered when she went into cardiac arrest as she had a lung scan has settled his High Court action for €1.25 million.

Anne Casey died at the Cork hospital eleven days after she first had a cardiac arrest as she was having a lung scan and her baby was delivered by emergency caesarean section on the x-ray table.

Her husband Dominic Casey from Dunmanway, County Cork today told the High Court he was outside the X-ray department as his wife who had been admitted to the hospital days earlier with breathlessness went into cardiac arrest.

“I saw the chaos . I felt numb and stunned. I thought my wife and baby son were both gone,” he told Mr Justice Kevin Cross.

Tragic case 

Mr Casey’s counsel Dr John O’Mahony SC told the court it was an extremely sad and tragic case.

Mrs Casey, who had a history of cardiac issues and was over 37 weeks pregnant, had gone to the hospital complaining of a marked cough for the previous three weeks and she had become breathless. Counsel said she was admitted to the hospital on a Friday but was not seen by a consultant over the weekend.

She was treated for a respiratory infection, but Counsel said they were going down the wrong road and red lights should have been flashing. Mrs Casey, he said, had insulin requiring diabetes and was also overweight.

He said when Mrs Casey went into cardiac arrest as she had a lung scan as many as twelve doctors were involved in an attempt to save her and deliver her baby.

Mrs Casey regained a pulse and was transferred to ICU but it was later confirmed she had suffered a devastating brain injury. Her condition did not improve over the next nine days and on March 7 2012 a decision was made to remove life support and she passed away two days later.

Counsel added 

“Her son Ben is now nine years of age and has lived his life without his mother.” 

Not reviewed by consultant

A review at Cork University Maternity Hospital after Mrs Casey's death found she died of a devastating brain injury incurred at the time of the cardiac arrest.

It identified a number of clinical risk factors in relation to Mrs Casey including obesity and insulin requiring diabetes. Mrs Casey also minimised her symptoms and discomfort when communicating with staff.

The review panel found Mrs Casey was obviously and significantly unwell for more than 60 hours following her admission but had not been reviewed by a consultant.

It also found the severity of the patient's symptoms should have prompted medical referral over the weekend and certainly within 24 hours of her admission to Cork University Maternity Hospital.

It recommended that patients with complex medical conditions and new symptoms should be reviewed in person by a consultant within 24 hours of admission and sooner if necessary.

Dominic Casey (49) Lettergorman, Dunmanway, County Cork had sued the HSE over the death of his wife at the Cork hospital on March 9, 2012, days after the cardiac arrest on the x ray table.

It was claimed there was an alleged failure to properly assess, diagnose and treat Mrs Casey when she presented in the emergency department with breathlessness and instead, it was allegedly mistakenly assumed she was suffering from a respiratory infection. There was also it was claimed an alleged failure to screen for cardiac failure during the pregnancy and an alleged failure to recognise certain symptoms including an unexplained cough and swelling of the lower extremities were highly suggestive of cardiac failure.

It was further alleged the lung scan should not have been performed and instead Mrs Casey should have been transferred to a unit where she could have been intensely monitored and have her cardiac failure treated.

The claims were denied.

Dr O’Mahony said Mrs Casey was admitted to Cork University Maternity Hospital on February 24, 2012 complaining of a three week history of dry cough which had become worse in the preceding 48 hours. She was feeling feverish and she gave a history of decreased foetal movements.

Mrs Casey also had swollen feet and had elevated blood pressure. It is claimed she was treated on the basis of a respiratory infection and referred for a VQ lung scan. However, it is claimed during the scan she suffered a cardiac arrest and CPR was commenced.

Mrs Casey was intubated, and a caesarean section was performed on the x ray table and a baby boy delivered.

Mrs Casey regained a pulse and was transferred to ICU but it was later confirmed she had suffered a devastating brain injury. Her condition did not improve over the next nine days and on March 7 2012 a decision was made to remove life support and she passed away two days later.

Dr John O’Mahony told the court that the review at the hospital identified shortcomings but the HSE filed a full defence in the case.

Approving the settlement Mr Justice Kevin Cross extended his sincere sympathy to Mr Casey and his son and said it was a particularly harrowing case. He said the settlement was a very good one.

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