Family of man killed by wrong drugs awarded €1m

30 March 2011

THE HIGH Court has approved an award of €1 million damages to the family of a man who died after a doctor injected him with the wrong medication to treat a bout of suspected food poisoning.

Colm O’Donovan (31), Gloun North, Dunmanway, Co Cork, suffered a heart attack and died on August 7th, 2004, less than two days after he developed a gastric complaint.

Arising from his death, his widow Patricia O’Donovan sued Dr Johan Dirk Van Der Meer, with an address at Sasolburg, South Africa, who allegedly treated her husband, and South West Doctors On Call Ltd, trading as South Doc, of St Finan’s Hospital, Co Kerry.

It was claimed Dr Van Der Meer was an employee of South Doc on August 7th, 2004, and it was vicariously liable for his alleged actions. Liability was admitted by Dr Van Der Meer in the case and yesterday’s award was made against him only. The action against South Doc was struck out.

In a brief statement read to the court, Dr Van Der Meer expressed his “sincere regret” to family for their loss.

The award was approved by Mr Justice Iarfhlaith Ó Neill after he was told by Liam Reidy SC, for Ms O’Donovan, that matters had been resolved between the parties. It was agreed Ms O’Donovan and her family would receive €1 million plus their legal costs, counsel said.

In the proceedings, Ms O’Donovan, now living at Drumdowney, Mallow, Co Cork, claimed Dr Van Der Meer was negligent in allegedly treating her husband with the wrong drug – namely Largactyl – which may have accelerated what was a serious illness.

It was claimed Mr O’Donovan became ill on August 5th, 2004, with suspected food poisoning. His wife contacted South Doc’s out-of-hours service on August 6th and, it was claimed, Mr O’Donovan attended another doctor and was given an injection of cyclimorph.

It was claimed Mr O’Donovan then returned to the family home in Dunmanway but his condition deteriorated and he collapsed and had seizures.

South Doc was contacted again and, during the early hours of August 7th, Dr Van Der Meer attended the O’Donovans’ home and administered an injection, it was claimed. Dr Van Der Meer allegedly told Ms O’Donovan her husband was having a reaction to the first injection and the second injection would counter that.

Mr O’Donovan’s condition worsened and the family GP attended him. He suffered a heart attack, it was claimed. CPR was performed but without success.

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