Settlement of €1.5m for family of brain-dead pregnant woman kept on life support

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A settlement of €1.5m plus costs has been approved for the family of a pregnant woman, who was brain-dead but kept on life support due to concerns about the Eighth Amendment.

Most of the settlement will go to Natasha Perie’s two children, aged 11 and 9.

Last November, the HSE and the Regional Hospital in Mullingar apologised to the Perie family over failings in her care.

She was 26 years old and around 15 weeks’ pregnant with her third child when she suffered a brain cyst which was undetected and then ruptured.

She was kept alive on life support for four weeks, until her family got orders from the High Court at Christmas 2014, allowing the ventilator to be switched off.

The High Court ruled at that time, that the life support could be withdrawn because the only prospect for the unborn child at 15 weeks’ gestation was distress and death.

The court had heard doctors had been concerned that taking her off life support could have breached the constitutional right to life of the unborn in the Eighth Amendment to the constitution, which has since been repealed.

Her father, Peter Perie, took proceedings in which the main claim was damages for his two grandchildren, a girl now aged 11 and a boy now aged 9, over the loss of their mother’s care.

Both children, who have different fathers, had been living with their mother in Mr Perie’s home, but since her death, they have each been living in separate homes with their fathers.

The HSE admitted liability but disputed the extent of the damages sought. The family were seeking more than €3m and the State Claims Agency had offered €1.5m.

The matter went to a hearing after mediation failed to secure agreement.

Ms Justice Deirdre Murphy heard evidence from Mr Perie, members of his family and the children’s fathers. 

She also heard evidence from a doctor about the impact on the children of seeing their mother when she was on life support.

Evidence was also given by a care expert who considered both children would require live-in nannies until they left home. 

Ms Justice Murphy had expressed reservations about that and other aspects of the claim.

This morning, Mr Justice Kevin Cross was asked to approve the offer of €1.5m. 

The judge said it was a tragic case. He said litigation was not an exact science and the court’s assessment of evidence as well as other circumstances could alter matters. 

He said as matters had unfolded the settlement was a very good one.

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