Compensation after child’s death an ‘insult’

Ray and Marie Ferguson.
Ray and Marie Ferguson.

The £40,000 compensation offered to the mother of a nine year old girl from Londonderry who died after an appendix operation has been described as “an insult.”

Nine year-old Raychel Ferguson died in June 2001 after she received a lethal dose of intravenous fluid following an appendix operation at Altnagelvin hospital. She was transferred to the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children following the operation but died hours later.

Her death was investigated as part of the Hyponatraemia Inquiry, a condition which causes the brain cells to swell because of a low level of sodium in the bloodstream.

Last year the Western Trust admitted liability and issued an unreserved apology to her family.

Her parents, Ray and Marie Ferguson, reached an out of court settlement with the Western Health and Social Care Trust yesterday over the death.

A medical negligence claim lodged at the High Court in Belfast was due to decide the level of damages to be awarded to Mr and Mrs Ferguson. But Mr Justice Gillen was instead told that a settlement had been negotiated, with the family to receive £40,000 plus their legal costs.

However, Mrs Ferguson described the settlement as “worse than an insult.”

“£40,000 for the life of a child is an insult,” she said.

She said they did not want to accept it but were given legal advice that “if we went to court we could come away with the statutory amount of £11,800”, adding: “In my mind it is disgusting. If you break it down throughout Raychel’s life that amounts to less than £10 a day.

“We had a healthy girl who was taken away from us. £40,000 for that is worse than an insult,” said Mrs Ferguson.

The Derry mother said she now intends to campaign to have the law on compensation changed.

“This does not end here for us. We are waiting for the report of the inquiry which may lead to legal action against the Belfast Trust but I also intend to have the compensation law changed,” she explained.