The family of a newborn gassed to death following a tragic mix-up at a Sydney hospital may have difficulty claiming compensation due to a gap in Australian law.
Youssef and Sonya Ghanem’s son John was pronounced dead on July 13 after staff at Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital inadvertently administered the baby with nitrous oxide instead of oxygen shortly after birth, leaving the couple “shocked” and devastated.
Yet, according to a report in The Sydney Morning Herald, the stress and anguish the Ghanems are feeling may not be enough to warrant them being awarded financial damages.
Under Australian law, the paper reports, the parents of children who die as a result of negligence can only receive compensation if they are able prove they suffered a recognised psychiatric illness as a result of the death.
However, there is reportedly nothing to prevent the NSW state government from voluntarily issuing compensation if it deems it to be appropriate, something that is reportedly under consideration.
According to The Sydney Morning Herald, Health Minister Skinner said the incident was a “complex and highly sensitive legal matter” and that South Western Sydney Local Health District would “consider how best to continue to provide support to both families in the future, including the provision of monetary payments”.
Sonya Ghanem told Nine News yesterday that she is still haunted by her son’s tragic death.
“I have his clothes ready, I come home and look at his room (but there is) no baby,” she told Nine News.
“I would never go back to this hospital ever again. I want all other parents to know, don’t go there.”
Sonya and Youseff Ghanem. Facebook.
Authorities are currently working to determine how the nitrous oxide was administered to baby John, but NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner indicated that the wrong gas canister had been fitted to the operating theatre.
The error was identified last Thursday, after a paediatrician raised concerns over the death of the baby, but the information was not made public until Monday.
It was later revealed that John's death followed a similar June incident that has left a newborn with permanent brain damage. The baby girl remains in a critical condition.
Bankstown-Lidcombe Hospital has shut down the operation theatre with the faulty machine, while the hospital's seven other theatres have been checked and deemed safe.