Mired in scandals, disgraced doctors and misdiagnoses
By Breda Heffernan
Tuesday June 08 2010
OUR Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda has been mired in a series of high-profile scandals and controversies in recent years, many of which have centred on the standard of care given to pregnant women.
Disgraced obstetrician Dr Michael Neary was struck off the medical register in 2003 after an investigation found he had needlessly removed the wombs and ovaries of dozens of expectant mothers.
A state inquiry concluded that his actions over the course of 20 years were motivated more by a “phobia” of losing patients than by malice or incompetence.
However, the scandal led to the introduction of a “whistleblower” clause to give legal protection to health workers who raised concerns about the conduct of colleagues.
GARDA TANIA MCCABE
Sergeant Tania Corcoran-McCabe was six months pregnant with twins when she presented at the hospital in March, 2007 with stomach pains. Doctors failed to diagnose that she was suffering ruptured membranes and she was sent home.
She was rushed back to the hospital within 24 hours by which stage she was suffering from sepsis and an emergency caesarean section was performed. Sgt Corcoran-McCabe died on the operating table while one of her twin boys, Zach, also lost his life.
An inquest returned a verdict of death by medical misadventure in relation to the young mother.
Our Lady of Lourdes came in for sharp criticism earlier this year after it was revealed that staff had continued to perform painful symphysiotomy procedures on pregnant women up until the early 1980s, despite other hospitals ending the practice nearly 20 years earlier.
The procedure, which involved widening the pelvis during childbirth, left many women with long-term health problems including incontinence, back pain and depression.
Mother Kathleen Naughton, who is still living with the consequences of the symphysiotomy she underwent there 35 years ago, said doctors at the time considered themselves to be “gods”.
Thousands of X-rays had to be reviewed after Scottish locum radiologist Dr James Murphy mistakenly gave the all-clear to nine lung cancer patients, eight of whom subsequently died. He worked at Our Lady of Lourdes in Drogheda and Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan between August 2006 and August 2007.
An investigation found that the misdiagnoses resulted in delayed treatment which took months off the lives of some patients. One had to wait over a year before being diagnosed.
To add insult to injury, during the X-ray review, a mailing error led to the families of 179 dead people being mistakenly told their loved-ones’ cases were going to be re-checked.
Surgeon Michael Shine, who retired from the hospital in 1995, was struck off the medical register in 2008 after the Medical Council found he had abused his professional position by making sexual advances towards three male patients.
He was acquitted of sexual assault during a court case seven years ago following complaints by patients treated at the hospital from the 1960s to the 1990s.
- Breda Heffernan
Sutton dad cleared of injuring baby by Court of Appeal
7:30am Friday 25th June 2010
A father wrongly jailed for attacking his seven-week-old daughter has had his conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal.
Ben Butler, 30, of Cleeve Way in Sutton, served three-and-a-half months in prison after it was alleged he shook his baby daughter Ellie so hard he caused her a serious head injury.
On Thursday after a legal battle lasting more than three years, Mr Butler finally had his conviction quashed by the Court of Appeal.
In an exclusive interview with the Sutton Guardian Mr Butler told of his miscarriage of justice and his hell inside prison.
He warned: “If it can happen to me, it can happen anyone.
“It ruined me. I still haven’t got over it.
“It was a bit surreal sitting in court the other day. I was only in there for a second when they said they accepted my case.”
Despite conflicting medical evidence being presented to the court Mr Butler was sentenced to 18 months in prison by Croydon Crown Court in March 2009. He was convicted of cruelty and causing grievous bodily harm.
Mr Butler was arrested in February 2007, when he rushed Ellie to St Helier hospital after she became limp and pale.
Although Ellie bore no outward mark of recent injury, doctors discovered she had suffered a serious head injury.
Ellie made a full recovery from her injuries, and since she had no visible injuries the case was tried almost entirely on the basis of medical evidence and opinion.
Mr Butler served three-and-a-half months of his prison sentence before he was released on bail to fight his appeal.
That appeal was finally heard in March this year, some three years after his nightmare began.
The Court of Appeal found there was no rational basis on which a jury, in light of some of the medical evidence given, could reject an unknown cause for the injuries, rather than shaking.
It also found the judge’s summing up of the case contained serious misdirections.
Mr Butler now intends to take action against the police for wrongful arrest.
Prison destroyed me, says Sutton dad cleared of injuring his baby
7:40am Friday 25th June 2010
As Ben Butler was sentenced to 18 months for hurting his only daughter, the shock was so great even one of his barristers broke down in tears.
It was to be the start of a three-and-a-half month nightmare in prison, surrounded by sex offenders and violent convicts.
Devoted father Mr Butler was finally cleared of any blame at the Court of Appeal last Thursday, nearly three-and-half years after his ordeal first began.
He said: “I was destroyed. Prison was the hardest thing ever. It was beyond belief. It took everything out of me.
“They transferred me to a prison in Cambridgeshire where 75 per cent of the prisoners were sex offenders.
“I wasn’t even allowed a picture of my daughter.
“It was a terrible place. I was proud, and lost all pride for a long time in there.”
It started when Mr Butler took his daughter to St Helier hospital after she went pale and limp.
Although his seven-week-old daughter, Ellie, had no visible signs of recent injury, doctors discovered she had suffered a serious head injury.
He said: “Her mum said she had been having these periods where she went pale.
“I picked her up and she was all floppy and non-responsive.
“The ambulance was taking too long so I called a friend and he drove us to the hospital.”
While at the hospital Mr Butler came under increasing scrutiny from doctors, who then called the police.
He was later arrested and charged with cruelty and causing grievous bodily harm.
Because of the lack of any outward injury, the case against him was constructed almost entirely on medical evidence and opinion.
Mr Butler said: “Everyone I knew that was close to me couldn’t believe what was going on.
“They all said it will be all right, there’s nothing wrong with her.”
But he was convicted by a jury of causing grievous bodily harm to his baby after Croydon Crown Court heard evidence of shaken baby syndrome – a potentially fatal form of child abuse. It occurs when a baby is forcefully shaken, leading to damage within the child’s skull.
Mr Butler said this week he intends to sue the police for wrongful arrest. He claimed police ignored the evidence of four different experts who said Ellie’s injuries were unlikely to have been caused by shaking. He also claimed £1m has been spent trying to convict him.
Mr Butler believes miscarriages of justice over shaken baby syndrome will continue to happen if there is not a change in the law.
He claims the police and the courts rely on the same sort of evidence, and while the prosecution are able to fund a large number of expert witnesses to support their claims, on legal aid he was only able to call three experts in support of him.
He said: “There was conflicting medical evidence and the experts were arguing with each other all the time.
“The evidence is too complicated for a jury to understand.
“I have spent the last three-and-a-half years in a constant fight.
“Now I have got to the point where I don’t feel anything. I feel numb.
“I don’t know what to do now. I’ve been trying to keep myself busy, I’ve been doing lots of reading and researching shaken baby syndrome.
“In the past I worked in an office, I will have to get back into work.
“With everything that happened I probably lost a bit of me that will never come back.”