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Posted in [Blog Medical Negligence ] on Thursday, May 25th, 2017

The HSE published its long awaited report entitled The HSE Maternity Clinical Complaints Review on Tuesday the 23rd May 2017.

Frankly, I have lost track of the number of reports that have come into being since Primetime Investigates first reported on the tragic deaths of a number of babies in the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise on the 30th January 2014. I think this latest report is the sixth such report.

The review, the subject matter of this latest report, was chaired by Dr Peter Boylan (former Master of Holles Street) and 153 maternity related complaints were looked at, these complaints having been made on foot of the Primetime programme. The complaints related to events spanning 40 years. The nature of the complaints were varied to include those related to perinatal deaths, management of labour, communications.

Arising out of the review, and on foot of recommendations made by the Clinical Review Team, the HSE has furnished letters of apology to 14 families, which is of course to be welcomed.

As a Medical Negligence Solicitor with Cantillons Solicitors, my colleagues and I have read many HSE reports on adverse events involving our clients over the years. One such client of mine was an elderly gentleman who was exposed to and contracted, Hepatitis B in a HSE run hospital in the southeast. Unbelievably, this hospital had engaged in a practice of using re-usable needle holding devices in the phlebotomy procedure (the practice of taking blood) up to 99 times! In this case, an investigation and look back review was carried out by the HSE and despite the fact that several draft reports issued (which this firm had to fight tooth and nail in the litigation process to get), and despite assurances that the final report would be published, it never saw the light of day and is no doubt languishing in some dark corner of an office gathering dust.

At least we have moved on from this practice of sweeping mistakes under the carpet but we have not moved fast enough or indeed far enough, in my view.

There is no sign of anyone being held to account for what happened in the Midlands Regional Hospital Portlaoise or indeed, in any of the other eight hospitals that came under review in this report.

I note with interest that one of the recommendations contained within the report is that “Timely open disclosure to patients and families is mandatory in the event of a possible adverse experience”.

Recommendations are all well and good but it is time for action.

Following publication of this report, Minister for Health Simon Harris has been quoted as saying:-

The number of these complaints over such a long period of time is a wake-up call to all of us to ensure our health system becomes more open, and deploys systems that are responsive, and listen and learn from patients.”

Yet, as I pointed out in a previous blog (published on Cantillons website on the 3rd April 2017), Minister for Health, Simon Harris, plans to introduce a voluntary open disclosure scheme which will give medical professionals legal protection for any information given following a patient safety incident. In other words, telling the truth will be optional and protected.

The HSE has had a National Open Disclosure Policy since November 2013. It is merely a policy, a guideline. My colleagues have seen it ignored time and time again.

Unless the truth is legislated for, and sanctions are imposed on those who don’t tell the truth, I am not optimistic that we have seen the last of tragic events such as those that occurred in Portlaoise hospital and other hospitals and indeed the last of these types of report.

Karen Kearney, Medical Negligence Solicitor, Cantillons Solicitors

Contact us at Cantillons Solicitors at +353 (0)21 -4275673 or if you would like more information.

“In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.”  

Karen Kearney



In her twenty years as a practising solicitor, Karen has worked with a number of leading law firms in Limerick and Cork where she has acquired extensive experience in all areas of the law, with a particular expertise in medical negligence cases.

Karen has represented clients effectively in many forums including the District Court, Circuit Court, High Court, Employment Tribunals and Coroner’s Court. She has acted for, and advised, State Bodies in respect of all areas of the law to include childcare law; employment issues; food safety and health and safety issues.

Karen joined Cantillons Solicitors in November 2009 and works in the Medical Negligence Department practising clinical negligence litigation.  She is expertly assisted by Patricia Sisk and April Wiseman, Legal Assistants.

She is very proud to be a member of the medical negligence team which  has been involved in precedent-setting  cases since 1980 and which received the inaugural award of Litigation Team of the Year, National Irish Bank Law Awards in 2012.

Karen regularly attends international conferences in order to add to  her pool of her experts and ensure access to the world’s best. She is also regularly asked to speak at national and international conferences concerning medico-legal issues. She is a regular speaker at the annual Medical Law Conference; giving presentations on healthcare law, practice and procedure to employees in the healthcare section and fellow lawyers. This lecturing experience means that Karen has an excellent grasp of law in theory as well as in practice.

Karen has featured on national television and on local and national radio  in relation to this specialised area of medical negligence litigation.She has been commissioned to write opinion pieces on topical issues in the medical negligence area, published in national newspapers. Notably, she first highlighted in the Irish Examiner, the Minister for Health’s failure to introduce a statutory Duty of Candour-  a legal requirement for medical staff, nurses and management to tell patients and their families if a mistake has been made which adversely affects the patient’s health – despite the Minister’s promise to do so.

Karen also writes a weekly column in a local daily newspaper, the Evening Echo, addressing reader’s legal queries. This column  appears in Monday’s edition of the paper.

Karen has developed real expertise in her field and has shown great dedication in pursuing complex injury cases to settlement.

Karen gets referrals from patients nationwide. She represents her patients with determination and compassion.


  • BCL Honours 1992
  • Admitted to the Roll of Solicitors in Michaelmas 1996


  • Former Secretary of Limerick Bar Association
  • Former member of the Litigation Committee of the Law Society of Ireland
  • Member of the Medical Injuries Alliance
  • Member of Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA)

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Karen Kearney


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