High Court action taken against HSE by family of young woman who died at University Hospital Limerick

Kate Cleary and Melanie Sheehan, sister and mother of the late Eve Cleary. Photo: Brendan Gleeson.

A HIGH Court action taken against the HSE by the family of a young woman who died of a cardiac arrest due to blood clots in her lungs at University Hospital Limerick (UHL) was due to get underway yesterday (Wednesday January 17).

The civil action being brought against the HSE by the family of Eve Cleary claims medical negligence and an alleged breach of duty of care to the 21-year-old Corbally woman.

The proceedings were filed prior to an inquest into Ms Cleary’s death, held at Limerick Coroner’s Court in October 2021.

The inquest heard that Ms Cleary died at UHL on July 21, 2019, four hours after she was discharged from the hospital with a suspected soft tissue injury, despite being in severe pain and experiencing a swollen leg.

She presented at UHL two days beforehand (July 19) with an injured leg following a fall and was triaged as urgent through to the emergency department (ED).

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Ms Cleary spent 17 hours on a trolley in a cramped corridor of the overcrowded ED.

The inquest heard that Ms Cleary’s trolley lay near a foul-smelling sink which had been used as a toilet by another patient.

The inquest heard she presented at the hospital with a number of risk factors for blood clots, including taking a prescribed contraceptive pill, which specifically increased the risk of blood clots, being a smoker and overweight, and having family history of blood clots.

Ms Cleary was admitted as an in-patient for a CT scan on her leg, but her ED medical files appeared to be missing. The inquest heard that staff stationed on her ward were not fully aware of why she was there.

Staff witnesses told the inquest that screenings for blood clots were not routinely performed on patients presenting with acute trauma injuries.

Ms Cleary was not assessed for risk of blood clotting or seen by a consultant, it was heard. Her CT scan showed no abnormalities and she was discharged and told to rest her leg at home.

Four hours later, Ms Cleary went into cardiac arrest at her family home and was rushed back to UHL by ambulance, where she was pronounced dead after arrival.

A post mortem found the cause of her death was due to cardiac arrest due to extensive bilateral thromboembolisation, or “clots” in her lungs.

Coroner John McNamara returned a verdict of medical misadventure, and he said the case was one of “missed opportunities”.

Eve Cleary’s mother, Melanie Sheehan, told the Limerick Post that her daughter was “failed the minute she walked through UHL’s doors”.