EPILIM Birth Defects

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Epilim – The harmful side effects of the epilepsy drug for pregnant women

Campaigners have stated the vital importance of any women or girls that are taking an epilepsy drug that causes birth defects, should be automatically reviewed by specialists to see if an alternative can be provided.

Epilepsy Ireland has said that any new child patients should not be put on the drug Epilim by their doctor, in order to avoid them having to wean off it themselves and find a replacement in the future when they may want to start a family.

Epilim is the brand name for sodium valproate in Ireland and in recent years has been implicated in 40 cases of disabilities and birth defects as reported to the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA). However, campaign groups believe that this may not be a true number and that it is possible that there may be 400 cases over the 43 years that the drug has been used here.

The European Medicines Agency is conducting a review of is expected to announce new restrictions or procedures for the use of Epilim. Following on from this review, it is then expected that the HPRA will convene a meeting of patient groups, pharmacists and doctors and other relevant parties in order to agree fresh protocols for the use of Epilim in Ireland.

Warnings about possible birth effects have been presented on Epilim packaging leaflets for years, but became more explicit in 2014 and since last year, extra warnings are also carried on the outer packaging of the product.

In 2016, HSE figures show that 1,700 female patients between the age of 16 and 44 were prescribed with Epilim. Various medical conditions in babies were reported by women in Ireland who took the drug during pregnancy. These included tumours, spina bifida, foetal malformation, autism and developmental problems and cerebral palsy. Also several women reported spontaneous abortions. Babies exposed to the drug in pregnancy have a 30-40% risk of serious developmental disorders along with an 11% risk of congenital malfunctions.

Since 2014, the HPRA has said that it has worked to provide information about Epilim through as many media as possible, including packaging, patient alert cards and front-line workers.

“The HPRA has communicated extensively with neurologists, obstetricians, paediatricians, psychiatrists, GP’s, family planning clinics, specialist epilepsy nurses, pharmacists and HSE clinical leads.

An Irish woman has given evidence at a hearing in London about the harmful effects of an epilepsy drug on her children. The lady from the Foetal Anti-Convulsant Syndrome Forum addressed to European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Tuesday at a hearing regarding the drug sodium valproate. The EMA is in the process of reviewing which measures are needed in order to warn women of the risks of the drug, particularly if taken during pregnancy. During the hearing, experts also highlighted that warnings over the drug (which has harmed thousands of children worldwide) should have been made as far back as the 1970’s. Sanofi (the manufacturer of the drug) has said that it has always been transparent with regulators about the risks of the medicine. Various campaigners have questioned the decision to not publish warnings about sodium valproate despite these warnings being highlighted by the manufacturer. Documentation from 1973 show that British regulators decided not to warn patients directly of the risks for fear it “could give rise to fruitless anxiety”. The license issued in 1974 for Epilim said that doctors and pharmacists should only prescribe it in severe cases of epilepsy or where there was no other alternative.

A representative from the UK’s Epilepsy Scoeity has said that women need to be given the right information and to make an informed choice. She went on to state that the charity wanted to see a national register created for any women taking the drug.



Her name was Clodagh

The tragic events that has been publicised over the past week about the Cavan murder of Clodagh Hawe (nee Coll) and her sons by her husband, who subsequently committed suicide, have again rocked the country, and have highlighted an interesting point.

Very few publications mentioned Clodagh Hawe’s name anywhere, referring to her as the ‘murderer’s wife’, or some other anonymous varient.  The most widely used photograph shows Alan Hawe standing with his three sons, and not a photograph of Clodagh Hawe in sight.

A social media campaign using the tag #hernamewasClodagh has been circulating around,since the tragic murders, highlighting the fact that we all may have been so immune to wives and partners being murdered by their husbands that we perhaps feel it’s no longer necessary to name the victim; only when children are also victims are their names and images spread around the news.

The charity Women’s Aid posted a bleak article on the number of deaths of wives and children since they began record-taking in 1996:

“Since Women’s Aid started to keep record in 1996, 1 in every 2 female homicide victims in Ireland has been murdered by a current or former intimate partner.*

“This means that 87 women have had their lives stolen by those who were closest to them – their boyfriends, husbands and partners or those they had ended relationships with. 14 children were also murdered alongside their mothers.

“Today we remember stolen lives – the 87 women and 14 children and their families and friends left to mourn them.”

The list of 87 women and 14 children are set out below, and you can read the full article here.

Sandra Tobin, March 1996, Age 35
Noeleen Cawley, April 1996, Age 39
Martina Halligan, May 1996, Age 33
Angela Collins, May 1996, Age 49
Patricia Murphy, May 1996, Age 36
Maura McKinney, August 1996, Age 58
Janet Mooney, September 1996, Age 29
Bernie Sherry, April 1997, Age 44
Kitty Gubbins, May 1997, Age 70
Elizabeth Troy, July 1997, Age 60
Sheila McDonagh, September 1997, Age 26
Mary Kelehan, December 1997, Age 49
Mandy Smyth, January 1998, Age 26
Chantal Bergeron, August 1998, Age 42
Catherine Hegarty, February 1999, Age 33
Marie Hennessy, May 1999, Age 36
Bente Carroll, May 1999, Age 45
Catherine Mullins, October 1999, Age 43
Maeve Byrne, September 2000, Age 37 and her sons Alan aged 10 and Shane aged 6.
Jean Reilly, December, 2000, Age 34
Jennifer Wilkinson, December 2000, Age 24
Susan Prakash, December 2000, Age 28
Mary Whelan, March 2001, Age 27
Debbie Fox, July 2001, Age 30 and her sons Trevor aged 9 and Cillian aged 7
Geraldine Kissane, October 2001, Age 23
Linda Dunne, September 2001, Age 24
Lorraine O’Connor, October 2001, Age 19
Joan Power, March 2002, Age 43
Rosie Collinson, March 2002, Age 50
Niamh Murphy, May 2002, Age 20
Carmel Coyne, August 2002, Age 42
Jean Scanlon, January 2003, Age 33
Cliona Manger, February 2003, Age 20
Natasha Gray, February 2003, Age 25
Georgina Eager, May 2003, Age 29
Xiang Yi Wang, July 2003, Age 21
Ann Flynn, August 2003, Age 50
Dolores McCrea, January 2004, Age 35
Janet Chaney, April 2004, Age 47
Rachel O’Reilly, October 2004, Age 31
Colleen Mulder, December 2004, Age 41
Celia Bailey, March 2005, Age 54
Mary Hannon, April 2005, Age 59
Catherine McEnery, July 2005, Age 35
Ann Walsh, August 2005, Age 23
Rosemary Dowling, October 2005, Age 49
Siobhan Kearney, February 2006, Age 37
Karen Guinee, June 2006, Age 23
Sheola Keaney, July 2006, Age 19
Rose Patterson, April 2007, Age 30
Ciara Dunne, April 2007, Age 23 and her daughters Shania aged 5 and Leanne aged 2.
Sara Nelligan, June 2007, Age 31
Jean Gilbert, August 2007, Age 46
Amanda Jenkins, October 2007, Age 27
Joanne Mangan, October 2007, Age 20
Marion O’Leary, October 2007, Age 53
Ciara Ni Chathmhaoil, November 2007, Age 22
Lorraine Flood, April 2008, Age 38 and her son Mark aged 6 and daughter Julie aged 5
Kezia Gomez Rosa, August 2008, Age 26
Carmel Breen, November 2008, Age 57
Noeleen Brennan, November 2008, Age 38
Celine Cawley, December 2008, Age 46
Rebecca Hoban, December 2008,Age 28
Joan Vickers, April 2009, Age 43
Lisa Doyle, September 2009, Age 24
Joselita Da Silva, October 2009, Age 33
Loredana Pricajan, January 2010, Age 36
Breda Cummins, May 2010, Age 31
Helen Donegan, May 2010, Age 30
Sarah Hines, November 2010, Age 25 and her son Reece aged 3, her daughter Amy aged 5 months. Sarah’s friend Alicia Bough was also murdered.
Katarzyna Barowiak, March 2011, Age 25
Diane Burroughs, April 2011, Age 30
Rudo Mawere, January 2012, Age 26
Sarah Regan, February 2012, Age 30
Mary Ryan, May 2012, Age 37
Jacqueline McDonagh, August 2012, Age 34.
Aoife Phelan, October 2012, Age 30
Olivia Dunlea O’Brien, February 2013, Age 36
Deirdre Keenan, February 2013, Age 51
Elaine O’Hara (36) – remains found 13th September 2013, reported missing 22nd August 2012
Jolanta Lubiene, June 2013, Age 27 and her daughter Enrika, Aged 8.
Patricia Kierans, June 2013, Age 54.
Sara Staunton, December 2013, Age 28
Angelique Belling, December 2014, Age 27.
Valerie Greaney, December 2014, Age 49.
Marie Quigley, July 2015, Age 68.
Clodagh Hawe, and her children Liam (13), Niall (11) and Ryan (6), August 2016.



3 + 5 =

Anonymity for Sexual Abuse Victims in Ireland

Anonymity for Sexual Abuse Victims in Ireland

Anonymity for Sexual Abuse Victims in Ireland

Within Irish law, those accused of rape can only be publicly identified if convicted and only then if a victim waives their right to anonymity and a judge allows the identity of the convicted to be made known.

There are definite variations between UK and Irish law in relation to sex offence anonymity which has been displayed further to recent revelations of UK TV soap actors being trialed for sex offence cases.

Figures ranging from 2011 show that 59% of those convicted of sex crimes within the Central Criminal Court in Ireland are not named in the media post-conviction.

Sex crimes do not carry automatic  pre-conviction anonymity (other than defilement, incest and rape). This allows for a situation where a violent sexual assault will allow for the disclosure of an accused’s identity, but an accused rapist may retain their anonymity.

Anonymity in some cases may be retained in order to protect the identity of the victim as opposed to that of the accused/convicted. Some victims however, may wish to waive their right to anonymity in order to allow for other victims to potentially come forward. Some other victims have also came out to express their concern that the decision for the anonymity of an accused or convicted sex offender should lie in the hands of a judge as opposed to the victim themselves.

A spokesperson from the Rape Crisis Network Ireland (RCNI) has stated that they feel pre-trial anonymity for the accused is necessary in Ireland because of the small size of the country and that many rape cases come from small rural communities. The Irish Constitution also stipulates that every citizen has the right to a ‘good name’ meaning that stripping pre-conviction anonymity is ‘simply not a runner here’.

The Right to Life of the Unborn v The Right to Terminate in circumstances of Fatal Foetal Abnormality

Four CourtsThe Right to Life of the Unborn v The Right to Terminate in circumstances of Fatal Foetal Abnormality

The Right to Life of the Unborn is a right protected by Art.40.3.3 of the Constitution which provides;

“The State acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and, as far as practicable,by its laws to defend and vindicate that right.”  

The above passage has been interpreted as meaning that the court, in determining a matter before it, will endeavour to strike a balance between the right to life of the unborn child and the right to life of the mother.

However, earlier case law in this area demonstrates that this was not always achieved, as seen in the cases of Attorney General (Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (Ireland) Ltd v Open Door Counselling [1988] and Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (Ireland) Ltd v Grogan [1989] wherein SPUC successfully sought interlocutory injunctions restraining the defendants from distributing information about abortion services and facilities in the UK to women resident in Ireland. These decisions were later overturned under EU law and the Freedom to Provide Services under Art 56 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, however they remain reflective of the approach that was taken to abortion at that time; that it is prohibited in Ireland, and that it should not be encouraged or advertised within the State by agents outside of this jurisdiction.

The well-known case of Attorney General v X [1992] brought the issue of permissibility of abortion to the forefront, where the right to life of the mother was undoubtedly given more consideration. In this case, the right to life of the mother was given due weight under circumstances where it was shown that there was a real and substantive risk that the mother would commit suicide given the circumstances under which she had fallen pregnant. The Supreme Court in this case ruled that the threat posed to the mother’s life was enough to necessitate the need for an abortion to be permitted in this instance, and that the mother should be allowed to travel to the UK to obtain an abortion. This case therefore demonstrates that the termination of a pregnancy is permitted in Irish law where there is a real and substantial risk to the life of the mother.  The 1992 Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution now prevent Art.40.3.3 to be relied upon to stop a mother travelling to another jurisdiction to receive an abortion, and indeed from availing of information relating to such services, demonstrating a development in this area of the law in more recent years. The Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act 2013 has since been enacted to give statutory effect to the above ruling.

However, a question arises as to whether a mother should be allowed to terminate a pregnancy under circumstances where they have been advised that their unborn child is suffering fatal abnormalities, rendering their chances of survival outside of the womb as non-viable. This issue was addressed in the case of D v The Health Service Executive [2007] wherein the mother’s first ante-natal scan tragically confirmed that the foetus suffered from anencephaly, a condition that resulted in the child being unable to survive upon birth. It was held in this case that the mother had the right to travel to the UK for the purposes of having an abortion. However, the law remains that abortion cannot be carried out in Ireland, merely providing the possibility for women to travel to another jurisdiction to have same carried out.

As it stands, a mother carrying a child with a diagnosis that their child is suffering from a condition or illness that renders them unable to survive outside of the womb will be assisted in delivering stillbirth, however will be unable to terminate the pregnancy prior to reaching this distressing stage.

It appears that little has been done to change this area of the law, as demonstrated by the recent defeat of the Fatal Abnormalities Bill in the Dáil this month. The Bill proposed to permit the termination of pregnancies where fatal abnormalities had been detected in Ireland, however this was rejected by 95 votes to 45.

Woman Resolves Claim for a Supermarket Car Park Slip and Fall Accident

A woman´s claim for a supermarket car park slip and fall accident has been resolved during a hearing to determine liability at the High Court.

On 29 November 2011, seventy-two year old Mary Parnell was visiting her local Superquinn supermarket (now known as SuperValu), when she slipped and fell while making her way across the car park from her car to the supermarket entrance. Mary dislocated her shoulder in the accident – an injury that still has an impact on her day-to-day living and that prevented her from holding her grandchildren or swimming in her son´s pool on a recent visit to Australia.

Despite the weather being particularly inclement on the day of her accident, Mary attributed her slip and fall to the surface of the car park having recently been painted. After seeking legal advice, Mary made a claim for a supermarket car park slip and fall accident against Superquinn and the two companies responsible for the repainting work in the car park.

All three parties denied their liability for Mary´s injury and refused to give their consent for the Injuries Board to carry out an assessment of Mary´s claim for a supermarket car park slip and fall accident. Mary was subsequently issued with an authorisation to pursue her injury compensation claim through the courts system, and the hearing to determine liability took place last week at the High Court.

At the hearing, Mr Justice Michael Hanna was informed that there had been an alleged failure by the defendants to erect a sign warning of the danger of slipping or cordon off the recently painted area. The judge was told that, had a warning sign been present or that area of the car park been inaccessible, Mary would have taken an alternative route from her car to the entrance of the supermarket.

Representatives of the defendants told Judge Hanna that Mary´s injury was not due to their negligence, but to Mary´s lack of care when walking across a very wet car park surface. The judge temporarily adjourned the hearing in order that the two parties could have settlement negotiations. On their return to the court, Judge Hanna was told that Mary´s claim for a supermarket car park slip and fall accident had been resolved and the case could be struck out.