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Man whose wife died after heart attack while pregnant awarded €1.25m

Woman died 11 days after baby delivered by emergency Caesarean section

A man who sued over the death of his 38-year-old wife days after she went into cardiac arrest just before her first baby was safely delivered has settled his High Court action for €1.25 million.

Anne Casey, who had a history of cardiac problems, died at Cork University Maternity Hospital 11 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, Co Cork told the High Court on Thursday 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.

Dr John O’Mahony SC, for Mr Casey, said it was an extremely sad and tragic case.

Mrs Casey, who had a history of cardiac issues, was some 37 weeks pregnant when she went to the hospital complaining of a marked cough for the previous three weeks and breathlessness. 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 they were “going down the wrong road and red lights should have been flashing” as she had diabetes requiring insulin and was overweight.

When she went into cardiac arrest as she had a lung scan, as many as 12 doctors were involved in an attempt to save her and deliver her baby, he said.

Mrs Casey regained a pulse and was transferred to the 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 7th, 2012 a decision was made to remove life support and she died two days later. “Her son Ben is now nine years of age and has lived his life without his mother,” counsel said.

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, had sued the HSE over the death of his wife at the Cork hospital on March 9th, 2012.

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 the hospital on February 24th, 2012 complaining of a three-week history of dry cough, which had become worse in the preceding 48 hours. She was feeling feverish and gave a history of decreased foetal movements.

She had swollen feet and 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. On March 7th, 2012 a decision was made to remove life support ad she died two days later.

Dr O’Mahony said the review at the hospital identified shortcomings but the HSE filed a full defence.

Approving the settlement Mr Justice Cross extended 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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