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Waterford hospital apologises over woman’s death

A hospital has apologised to the family of a 76-year-old woman who collapsed and died after taking an antibiotic to which she had previously had a severe allergic reaction.

Elizabeth Murphy went into anaphylactic shock in her Kilkenny home and died after taking the antibiotic prescribed by her doctor.

The Murphy family including Mrs Murphy’s husband of 47 years Seán Murphy settled an action against the HSE over the death and for nervous shock for a total of €400,000.

The High Court heard University Hospital Waterford had not included in Mrs Murphy’s hospital discharge papers just months before that she had an anaphylactic reaction to that antibiotic in hospital and had collapsed requiring adrenaline and other treatment.

Senior counsel Jeremy Maher told the court the death of Mrs Murphy in front of her husband and daughter at her home in Piltown Kilkenny was truly tragic and should never have happened.

He said it was their case that the discharge summary from the hospital to Mrs Murphy’s GP did not record that she had an anaphylactic shock after taking that antibiotic in hospital and put her collapse down to something else.

He said the HSE admitted a breach of duty on this matter.

Mr Maher said there was “pandemonium and panic” after Mrs Murphy’s collapse at home in January 2019 and despite valiant efforts from family and neighbours she died.

Mrs Murphy, her family or GP did not know she had previously collapsed after taking the same antibiotic in the Waterford hospital in September 2018.

In the apology read to the court, University Hospital Waterford offered its “sincerest apologies following the tragic death of Mrs Murphy” and said it acknowledged that the experience was devastating for the family ” and continues to have a profound and lasting effect.

It confirmed that recommendations made by the coroner after an inquest had been implemented including an electronic-only reporting initiative implemented and where test results for discharged patients are followed up.

Mr Maher said it was “some comfort” for the Murphy family to know lessons had been learned from the tragic death of Mrs Murphy.

In the case against the HSE it was claimed that in September 2018 Mrs Murphy was admitted to the hospital for cardiologial assessment after complaining of pain in her neck and shoulder.

She was noted to be allergic to penicillin and that the type of allergy was anaphylaxis.

On 21 September 2018, following the administration of a certain type of antibiotic, Mrs Murphy suffered an anaphylactic reaction.

She collapsed and became unresponsive and adrenalin and other medication had to be given.

That antibiotic was discontinued and she was given an alternative one and discharged from hospital five days later and brought back the next month for review. It was claimed during the consultation no reference was made to her anaphylactic reaction or collapse.

Four months later at the end of January 2019, she went to her GP with pain in her back, shoulder and chest and was prescribed the same antibiotic she had in hospital.

She took the tablet at home and it was claimed she suffered a severe anaphylactic reaction.

She was taken to hospital where she was pronounced dead on 30 January 2019.

It was alleged there was a failure to record her allergy in her hospital discharge notes and a failure to advise her GP that she had previously suffered a reaction.

Ms Justice Emily Egan offered her condolences to the family on what she said was their appalling loss.

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