By Anthony Murphy, Partner
A woman who underwent a symphisiotomy procedure has been awarded €591,297 in damages by the High Court as a result of a failure by staff of Our Lady of Lourdes Hopsital, Drogheda to correctly diagnose and treat the symptoms of symphysis pubis dysfunction (SPD).
SPD affects approximately 1 in 4 pregnant women and occurs most commonly as a result of the hormonal and physical changes of pregnancy. The symphysis pubis joint, which connects the two halves of the front pelvis, may move during pregnancy and with SPD there is increased movement which causes pain and discomfort with movement. It is helpful to have an early diagnosis so appropriate treatment can be given.
A symhisiotomy is a surgical procedure which increases dramatically the size of the pubic outlet to permit easier delivery of the baby. It involves a division of the cartilage of the area where the pubic bones meet and can be a high risk procedure.
The plaintiff in this case, Tracey Nelson, had taken a case against the HSE claiming that Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital was negligent in the treatment of her pregancy in 2000 and its failure to diagnose SPD. After suffering for a number of years with pain and discomfort following the procedure Ms Nelson underwent surgery in 2004 and again in 2007 to stabilise the condition. She also gave evidence of having suffered significant emotional and psychological trauma and suffered from depression.
Mr Justice O`Neill in the High Court took the view that the hospital had fallen below the standard of care expected and was satisfied from the medcial evidence that had the proper diagnosis occurred then steps would have been taken to avoid the risk of SPD progressing to a symphysiotomy. Awarding Ms Nelson €591,297 in compensation, Mr Justice O’Neill said that he was also satisfied the doctors and midwives who attended Ms Nelson were “oblivious” to her SPD condition and consequently took no precautions to prevent the risk of avoidable injury during the course of her labour.