Family of cancer survivor who died at Cork hospital settle action over his care

Gerard Shallow was 75-years-old when he died at Cork University Hospital in December 2017
Family of cancer survivor who died at Cork hospital settle action over his care

High Court reporters

The family of a pensioner and cancer survivor who died at a Cork hospital over three weeks after he was admitted because of a fall has settled a High Court action over his care before his death.

Father of four and grandfather Gerard Shallow, of Bank House, Main Street, Doneraile, Co Cork, was 75years-old when he died at Cork University Hospital (CUH) on December 6th, 2017.

His daughter, Geraldine Shallow, on behalf of the family, including her mother, Olive, had sued the HSE over the care her father received at the hospital before his death.

Mr Shallow suffered a fall at his home and was transferred to CUH on November 14th, 2017.

It is claimed that he remained at the hospital and his condition deteriorated. He was transferred to the intensive care unit where he died on December 6th, 2017.

The settlement, the terms of which are confidential, is without an admission of liability. The case was before the court for the ruling of the statutory €35,000 solatium mental distress payment.

The family’s counsel, Oonah McCrann SC instructed by Cantillons Solicitors, told the High Court the Shallow family were very distressed that liability was not admitted in the case, and while a letter expressing regret had been sent to the family, there was no apology which, she said, “remained an issue for the family”.

Ms McCrann said it was their case that it should have been clear Mr Shallow, who had recovered from lung cancer, was vulnerable.

Experts on their side, she told the court, contended there was a significant failure in Mr Shallow’s case where he had fluid on the lungs, and it was alleged there was no adequate attempt to drain it. Ms McCrann said Mr Swallow was very vulnerable to sepsis and an inevitable deterioration in his condition.

'Five-year battle'

Outside the court, Mr Shallow’s daughter, veterinary surgeon Geraldine, said it has been “a very hard five-year battle” for her mother Olive and the family.

“Finally, justice has been served to Dad. There are no words to express how much of an amazing, caring, kind, honest gentleman he was,” she said.

She added: “He had an infectious passion for life. He lived it to the full chasing the Northern Lights, travelling, walking his dogs, golfing and gardening. He donated his body to medical science, his final selfless act.”

Ms Shallow said even after he closed his eyes for the last time her father “became a silent teacher to our future doctors”.

“He is missed beyond belief by his wife, children and grandchildren. The settlement and letter of regret will never bring Dad back, but I truly hope the lessons learned will prevent others from suffering the way Dad did.”

Geraldine Shallow sued the HSE on behalf of the Shallow family, of Doneraile, Co Cork.

It was claimed there was a failure to identify that Mr Shallow, when admitted to CUH and when his condition deteriorated, was at high risk of respiratory infection if the build-up of fluid in the lungs was not adequately drained.

It was further claimed there was a failure to appreciate or act upon the fact that Mr Shallow had a high risk for developing infection because he was immunocompromised due to ongoing steroid therapy for allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis.

There was an alleged failure to ensure there were appropriate interdisciplinary discussions concerning what plan should be implemented to ensure that Mr Shallow's lung fluid build-up was adequately drained.

It was also claimed there was a failure, once Mr Shallow was admitted to CUH, to take all appropriate steps to adequately drain his lungs to allow them to expand and prevent an infection developing.

The HSE denied the claims.

Approving the distribution of the solarium, Mr Justice Paul Coffey conveyed his deepest sympathy to the Shallow family.

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