CJD investigation

CJD investigation
The HSE are conducting an investigation into the rare brain disease Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD).

The HSE are conducting an investigation into the rare brain disease Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (CJD).

They are currently trawling through medical records to find out how many patients may have been exposed to the disease.


CJD is often referred to as the human form of mad cow disease and is a fatal and incurable form of dementia. RTÉ have reported that the disease normally causes dementia, coma and then death within a year.

The Head of Health Protection with the HSE spoke to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland last week and advised that approximately ten to 20 people are at risk.

The investigation has been launched following concerns that surgical instruments were used on patients after they were previously used on a patient later diagnosed with CJD. Normal sterilisation techniques are not sufficient to decontaminate equipment used on persons with the disease and much more rigorous procedure or the destruction of the equipment is required.

RTÉ reports that the patient was not diagnosed with CJD until two weeks after the operation, which was undertaken at Beaumont Hospital, and the equipment had been used on other patients in the meantime.

This incident raises questions as to whether or not the HSE may have been negligent. While a hospital does not undertake to perform medical services, it does undertake to provide appropriate medical services by appropriate medical personnel in a competently run hospital. A hospital owes a number of duties to patients of that Hospital and the HSE (in the context of public hospitals) has an overall responsibility to up hold these duties:

1. To provide a safe place and system for the provision of medical services or;

2. To staff the hospital with appropriate medical personnel or;

3. To provide access to safe and appropriate medical systems or devices.

Medical Negligence

Medical Negligence is essentially an act or omission by a health care professional which is below the accepted standard of care and which results in injury or death to a patient. If the patients in question contracted CJD there are four main steps in proving medical negligence:

1. Proof that there is a Duty of Care – a legal duty is owed whenever a health care provider or hospital undertakes to treat a patient;

2. Proof that there is a breach of this Duty of Care – it must be shown that the health care provider failed to follow the standard of care;

3. Proof of Injury – the breach of duty must have caused the injury and;

4. Can you prove Damage – Regardless of whether or not the health care provider was negligent, there is no basis for a claim in negligence without damage, be it monetary, physical or emotional.

Steps we take to establish a possible case or ‘cause of action’

Medical negligence claims, in a similar way to personal injury claims, are made up of a series of hurdles. If you do not clear the first hurdle you cannot move on to the next.

To establish a case in medical negligence we need to take these steps:

Take up copies of all medical records and check them. In some cases we may even send them to a medical records expert for analysis;

Write to the doctor, health care professional or institution we believe is responsible for the injuries caused;

Medical experts specialising in the particular area of medicine involved will then be asked to consider whether or not the treatment received was negligent or sub-standard and if so the extent of the damage it caused.

If we consider that we have enough evidence to prove a case of medical negligence, then we advise starting court proceedings immediately.

Clinical negligence cases can be settled by negotiation without the need to proceed to a full trial but they are rarely resolved without starting court action.

Contact Us

If you feel that you or a loved one has been affected by the failure on the part of a hospital to operate safe practices and provision of medical services and have suffered injury as a result contact Orlagh Wafer at orlagh@lynchsolicitors.ie or telephone 052-612 4344 or Freephone 1800 750 850.

The material contained in this article is provided for general information purposes only and does not amount to legal or other professional advice. While every care has been taken in the preparation of the information, we advise you to seek specific advice from us about any legal decision or course of action.