Court awards €60,000 to parents after medical shortcomings led to death of 18-month-old child
The government’s Chief Medical Officer and two doctors were ordered to pay €60,000 in damages to the parents of an 18-monthold child who died 11 years ago because of shortcomings in medical treatment.
The child passed away at the Emergency department’s Paediatrics Unit at St Luke’s Hospital in 2005. In addition to shortcomings in treatment, the court also noted shortcomings in the professional organisation at the hospital during the time in question.
The child, Mireille Portelli, was taken to hospital by her parents a total of five times, four times of which they found the Paediatrics Unit shut and were forced to go to the Accident and Emergency department. They were repeatedly assured that nothing serious was wrong with their child and were instructed to go home. On her fifth visit to the hospital, baby Mireille tragically lost her life while at hospital.
The courts head how after the baby had been administered her MMR vaccine she developed a temperature of 103.7 degrees. It transpired that a swelling in the neck of the baby had been ignored. This was caused by a throat infection that eventually spread to her blood, causing septicaemia and eventually to her untimely death.
Experts told the courts that the medical examinations which were carried out on young Mireille were superficial at best, with a few fundamental examinations never being carried out. Dr Edward Zammit, the courts heard, failed to alert his superiors even though the child had turned blue and developed a rash.
On the final visit, Dr Daniela Damarco realised that the child’s condition was deteriorating rapidly and subsequently ordered a chest scan. Unfortunately, this was too late and the baby lost her life.
Judge Silvio Meli, presiding over the case, declared that this was a case of serious negligence in view of the handling of the case as well as the way in which the doctors carried out their duties when examining the child.
He noted that the doctor who had initially examined the baby had just three months experience at the Paediatrics department. The doctors failed to exercise the diligence expected of their profession, he said.
In addition to this, he noted that normal procedure was not followed through failure to refer to the child’s medical records, failure to take blood samples, failure to keep the child under observation, failure to alert their relevant consultants and senior doctors.
The fact that the paediatrics section of the Emergency department would be closed intermittently was also listed as a shortcoming.
The compensation due was established at €60,518.73 after taking into account the parent’s low degree of dependency on the victim and deductions for a lump sum payment.