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.



Compensation Claim for a Botched Laparoscopy Settled at Court

A compensation claim for a botched laparoscopy has been settled at the High Court, with the plaintiff being awarded more than €855,000 compensation.

The plaintiff – a fifty-year-old woman from Grenville in County Laoise – attended the Midland General Hospital in Portlaoise in June 2002 to undergo a laparoscopy. The purpose of the procedure was to establish why she was unable to fall pregnant; but, as a trocar was being inserted into her abdomen, the surgical instrument punctured a vein and tore an artery, causing the woman to haemorrhage.

Due to the botched procedure, the woman lost eight pints of blood. She was transferred to the hospital´s intensive care unit, where she remained on life support for two days. The woman was discharged after six days of treatment, but still experiences significant pains in her abdomen region fifteen years after the error by her consultant obstetrician – Dr John Corristine.

The woman made a compensation claim for a botched laparoscopy against Dr Corristine and the HSE, alleging there had been a failure to ensure the equipment used during the procedure was in a good and proper working order. She also claimed there was a lack of adequate precautions for her safety and that the pain and suffering she currently experiences are a direct result of the botched laparoscopy.

Dr Corristine and the HSE acknowledged mistakes had been made during the procedure and accepted liability for the woman´s initial pain and suffering. However, both defendants denied there was a connection between the procedure and her ongoing pain and suffering. The compensation claim for a botched laparoscopy subsequently proceeded to the High Court to be settled.

At the High Court hearing, Mr Justice Kevin Cross heard medical evidence supporting a connection between the procedure and the woman´s current condition. He also her condition was likely to deteriorate over time. The judge said the woman´s quality of life had been seriously impaired as a result of Dr Corristine´s lack of care, and he awarded her €855,793 in settlement of her compensation claim for a botched laparoscopy.

Injury Claim by a Childcare Worker Resolved during Court Hearing

An injury claim by a childcare worker has been resolved for an undisclosed settlement during a court hearing to establish liability.

The twenty-six year old childcare worker made her injury claim following a trip and fall accident at the Precious Minds creche in Lucan, Dublin. She had been asked by a senior worker to help with changing nappies in the babies room. Already looking after a group of small children, she took those who were awake and went into the babies room as requested.

The senior worker left soon after, leaving the childcare worker in charge of none infants. It was while she was attending to their needs that she tripped on a plastic plate that had been left on the floor and fell – sustaining soft tissue injuries to her lower back and upper legs. She quickly sought medical treatment from her GP, but continues to suffer from back pain.

The woman applied to the Injuries Board for an assessment of compensation, but the owners of the Precious Minds creche withheld their consent for the assessment to take place. The Injuries Board issued the woman with an authorization to pursue her injury claim by a childcare worker through the courts, and her case was heard last week at the Circuit Civil Court.

At the hearing, Judge Brian O´Callaghan was told by the counsel for the defence that the woman had been the author of her own misfortune. It was alleged that her duties included ensuring that the floor was free from hazards to avoid the children being injured. As she had fallen over a plastic plate left on the floor, it was argued that she had failed in her duties and was therefore responsible for her accident.

The judge also heard a statement from a forensic engineer, who claimed that the plaintiff had been placed in a particularly stressful situation by being left in charge of nine children. He said that the adult/child ratio was too high, and it demonstrated a lack of care by the creche´s management. There then followed a brief adjournment while settlement negotiations took place.

On the resumption of the hearing, Judge O´Callaghan was told that the injury claim by a childcare worker had been resolved for an undisclosed settlement without an admission of liability. The judge struck the claim – awarding the woman her costs and complimenting the two parties on reaching an agreement.

Injury Compensation Claim for a Fractured Ankle Resolved at Court

A businesswoman´s injury compensation claim for a fractured ankle has been resolved at the Circuit Civil Court with a compensation award of €56,250.

In August 2014, the businesswoman from Kinsale, County Cork, was staying at the Herbert Park Hotel in Ballsbridge while visiting the Dublin Horse Show at the Royal Dublin Society. On the final day of the event, the businesswoman, her son and grandson decided to make an early departure to prepare for the journey home due to inclement weather.

After checking out of the hotel, the businesswoman tried to get out of the hotel car park, but the barrier would not raise. While she was returning to the hotel lobby to check that her parking ticket had been validated, she slipped on the wet floor surface and immediately felt a severe pain in her ankle.

She was attended to by hotel staff before an ambulance was summoned and she was taken to St Vincent´s Hospital. At the hospital, an x-ray revealed a triple fracture to her left ankle. The businesswoman underwent surgery to set the ankle and was discharged wearing a plaster cast. She is now unable to walk long distances and will likely develop arthritis in the future.

The businesswoman made an injury compensation claim for a fractured ankle against the hotel and its management company for negligence. Consent for the Injuries Board to conduct an assessment of her claim was denied, and the businesswoman was issued with an authorisation to pursue her injury compensation claim for a fractured ankle through the courts.

The hearing to establish liability took place at the Circuit Civil Court earlier this week. At the hearing, Mr Justice Raymond Groarke heard that the floor of the hotel lobby was impeccably maintained, but it was prone to become slippery when moisture was carried onto it under people´s shoes. According to the expert witness, there should have been a mat by the entrance used by the businesswoman on her return to the lobby to absorb any moisture.

The defendants argued that the businesswoman had used an emergency entrance to re-enter the hotel, rather than the main entrance – which was protected against moisture. The hotel and its management company said that the plaintiff had only used the emergency entrance because she was in a hurry and there was a crowd of people blocking the main entrance at the time. Furthermore, it was argued, she had contributed to her accident by her own lack of care.

Judge Groarke found in the businesswoman´s favour – stating that it was an accident waiting to happen and that the plaintiff had suffered “a very nasty and extremely serious injury” as a result. However, he did also agree that the businesswoman could have been distracted as she re-entered the hotel and not paying full attention to her surroundings. He initially awarded her €75,000 in settlement of her injury compensation claim for a fractured ankle, but then reduced the award by 25% to €56,250 to account for her contributory negligence.

Claim for a Workplace Back Injury against Ryanair Upheld

A woman´s claim for a workplace back injury against Ryanair has been upheld on appeal to the High Court, after previously being dismissed last year.

The former Ryanair check-in clerk – a thirty-six year old woman from Swords in Dublin – made a claim for a workplace back injury against Ryanair and her employer MK Human Resources after straining her back while lifting luggage onto a conveyor belt on the morning of 28th July 2011 at Dublin Airport.

The plaintiff made her claim on the grounds that there was no safe system of work for tagging the last piece of luggage – an action she performed to advise baggage handlers that check-in had closed. She also alleged that the check-in desk was not a safe location from which to lift bags onto the conveyor belt.

Her claim for a workplace back injury against Ryanair was dismissed in November last year by the Circuit Civil Court after Judge Jacqueline Linnane found discrepancies between what the plaintiff had told her doctor and the Injuries Board when she had applied for an assessment of her claim.

There were also doubts about whether the plaintiff was standing or sitting – contrary to the manual handling training provided for her by Ryanair – at the time the injury occurred. Costs were awarded to Ryanair and MK Human Resources, but the plaintiff was given leave to appeal the verdict.

The appeal hearing took place last week at the High Court before Mr Justice Kevin Cross, who was told how the plaintiff´s injuries had occurred, and about the training she had received to prevent injuries while handling luggage. Judge Cross found in the plaintiff´s favour, ruling that the training the plaintiff had been provided with was not “site specific” and therefore insufficient for different scenarios.

However, the judge found that by twisting to tag the final piece of luggage, rather than turning, the plaintiff had contributed to her injury. He awarded her €20,800 in settlement of her claim for a workplace back injury against Ryanair – reducing the award by 20% to €16,650 to account for the woman´s contributory negligence.

Woman Awarded Compensation for Being Trapped in an Elevator

A woman has been awarded compensation for being trapped in an elevator after a judge said he was satisfied that the incident had caused an emotional trauma.

In August 2012, Marie Dicker – a fifty-four year old department store supervisor from Walkinstown in Dublin – was visiting the Square Shopping Centre in Tallaght with her youngest son. While in the shopping centre, the two shoppers took the elevator in order to travel down to the ground floor. However, soon after getting into the elevator, it stopped – trapping Marie and her son inside.

Marie attempted to summon help by using the elevator alarm button and, when nobody responded on the intercom, started banging the doors and calling for help. Eventually a security guard was alerted to the noise and was able to release Marie and her son from their ordeal. Although Marie later described the incident as lasting twenty minutes, CCTV taken inside the elevator showed that she had been trapped for just four minutes and thirty-five seconds.

Nonetheless the upsetting incident caused Marie to suffering a recurrence of childhood claustrophobia. Due to not feeling safe in rooms when the door was closed, she sought professional medical help and was diagnosed with anxiety, depression and an adjustment disorder. She then sought legal advice and claimed compensation for being trapped in an elevator against the shopping centre´s management company and the maintenance company responsible for the upkeep of the elevator.

Although both defendants acknowledged that there had been a breach in their duty of care, they disputed how much compensation for being trapped in an elevator Marie was claiming. They argued that a psychiatric evaluation conducted on their behalf showed no evidence of Marie suffering from anxiety and the case went to the High Court for the assessment of damages.

At the hearing, Mr Justice Anthony Barr was told that, since the incident, Marie has been under the care of a psychologist and has responded well to cognitive behaviour therapy. After hearing that her treatment is likely to continue for another twelve to eighteen months, the judge commented he was satisfied that Marie had suffered a direct psychiatric injury as a result of the incident and awarded her €25,060 compensation for being trapped in an elevator.

Personal Injury Compensation Settlements in Ireland Soon to be Revised

Personal injury compensation settlements in Ireland are soon to be revised with the publication of a updated version of the Book of Quantum.

The Book of Quantum is a guide used to assess how much compensation a plaintiff is entitled to for a physical injury sustained in an accident for which they were not at fault. The guide has been used by the Injuries Board, solicitors, insurance companies and judges in the calculation of personal injury compensation settlements in Ireland since it was first published in 2004.

In recent years, the Book of Quantum has been criticised for being out of date. Judges have sometimes ignored the guide when calculating personal injury compensation settlements in Ireland and, as a result, there have been inconsistencies in how much compensation is awarded for certain types of injury. The Book has also been criticised for not being sufficiently detailed about different grades of injury.

Now, after research into 52,000 personal injury compensation settlements in Ireland – and lengthy discussions between the Court Service, senior judges and the Injuries Board – an updated version of the Book of Quantum is due to be published within the next few weeks. Those with insider knowledge of the discussions say the updated publication is a significant improvement on the current guidelines.

In addition to updating the financial values assigned to physical injuries, the Book of Quantum classifies each type of injury in more detail regarding its severity and permanence. Judges will be able to more accurately assess personal injury compensation settlements in Ireland with the higher degree of granularity – as should insurance companies when compiling early offers of settlement.

An updated version of the Book of Quantum is long overdue and, although it is welcomed, it should be remembered that personal injury compensation settlements in Ireland are not based exclusively on the extent of a physical injury. Plaintiffs are also able to claim compensation for an emotional trauma or a reduction in their quality of life where these factors can be quantified, and sometimes the financial values of these elements are higher than the amount of compensation for a physical injury.

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.



1 + 14 =

Mother Awarded Compensation for an Ankle Injury at Dublin Zoo

A woman, who was in plaster for seven weeks following a slip and fall accident, has been awarded €105,000 compensation for an ankle injury at Dublin Zoo.

On June 12, 2011, forty-three year old Gwen Kane treated her family to a day out at Dublin Zoo to celebrate her son´s first birthday. However, as Gwen was pushing her son´s buggy past the sea lion enclosure, she slipped on a wet manhole cover – dislocating her right ankle.

Gwen from Firhouse in Dublin was taken to hospital, where her right leg was put in plaster to give the ankle some support. The plaster was removed after seven weeks, but Gwen had to continue using crutches for a further nine weeks until the ankle had fully healed.

Although able to walk without support, Gwen continued to experience pain in her ankle. She claimed compensation for an ankle injury against the Zoological Society of Ireland – who, although giving their consent for the Injuries Board to conduct an assessment, contested the value of the assessment when it was released.

Consequently, Gwen took her claim for compensation for an ankle injury at Dublin Zoo to the High Court, where her case was presented to Mr Justice Anthony Barr. At the hearing, Judge Barr heard the Zoological Society of Ireland had failed to provide a safe environment for the zoo´s visitors by neglecting to clear away the previous night´s rainwater.

The judge was also told of the consequences to Gwen´s quality of life following her accident and that, due to her dislocated ankle, Gwen had to forego her hobbies of Breton folk dancing, cycling and long-distance walking – activities that she frequently participated in to raise money for charity.

At the end of the hearing, Judge Barr commented he was satisfied Gwen had given a fair and accurate account of the consequences of her accident. He awarded her €105,000 compensation for an ankle injury at Dublin Zoo in respect of her pain and suffering and a further €9,988 special damages to account for the financial cost of her injury.

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’.


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