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TV | RTÉ Investigates reveals further medical failures leading to another sepsis related death

Photo of 76-year-old Michael Cuddihy

Photo of 76-year-old Michael Cuddihy


Tonight, RTÉ Investigates reveals the tragic death of Michael Cuddihy, who attended University Hospital Limerick (UHL), was preventable in a special report on Prime Time, as his family speak publicly for the first time.


In November 2023, 76-year-old Michael Cuddihy went to the Emergency Department of University Hospital Limerick (UHL), within 24 hours he was discharged and died two days later from sepsis as a result of a trapped gallstone.



The Cuddihy family’s grief was compounded by the news of another tragic death due to sepsis, that of 16-year-old Aoife Johnston.


Speaking to RTÉ Investigates in a report to be broadcast on Prime Time tonight, Michael’s daughter Anne said:


“Poor Aoife died December 2022. My dad died November 2023. My dad died from sepsis too, and I just don't understand how after the death of a 16-year-old girl, they cannot go all out to ensure that this does not happen to somebody else, whatever age they are. They clearly didn't learn from that.”



On November 20, 2023, Michael Cuddihy began feeling unwell at home. After experiencing vomiting and severe pain, his wife Áine called for an ambulance, and Michael was taken to UHL. Later that day Michael was told he had a stomach bug and was free to go home but he asked to stay overnight as he was not feeling well. Despite his condition deteriorating during the night, Michael was discharged the following day.


Michael’s daughter Anne Cuddihy

Michael’s daughter Anne Cuddihy


Michael’s daughter Anne said:


“It really beggars’ belief that you call an ambulance because you're feeling very, very sick and you go into a hospital which is supposed to be a safe place where you think you'll be looked after and cared for, and you're actually just sent out of there and sent home to die.”


Hospital notes seen by RTÉ Investigates show that having asked not to be discharged from hospital, Michael Cuddihy was then moved to another section of the Emergency Department at UHL where overnight he was found vomiting by nursing staff.


The notes also record that he had a raised temperature, but it appears there was no medical follow-up.



His daughter Anne explains how once the hospital saw that Michael’s heart was fine, they wanted to discharge him:


“They did a FAST scan, which is essentially a scan to check the heart is okay. When they did that and they realised that my dad’s heart wasn’t the issue, instead of checking to see what might be the issue, they essentially dismissed him and that was the end of my dad seeing a doctor.”


Michael lay on a trolley for 18 hours without being assessed by a doctor. Discharged the next morning, Michael continued to suffer at home until his death on November 23, 2023.


The post-mortem results confirmed that a trapped gallstone had caused an infection, leading to sepsis and Michael's untimely death. Having received the postmortem results, the Cuddihy family requested a meeting with senior management at University Hospital Limerick. The meeting was arranged for January of this year, over a year after the death of Aoife Johnston. Senior medical staff confessed that if they could "rewind the clock," Michael’s care would have been different.



Adding to their distress, earlier this month the Cuddihy’s learned that on the day Michael was discharged from UHL, HIQA had conducted an unannounced inspection at the Emergency Department finding risks of harm to patients were not being fully managed.


Its report noted the hospital still had significant improvements to make, stating there was unacceptable overcrowding and an Emergency Medicine Early Warning System, for recognising and responding to deteriorating patients, had not been implemented at the time. It did find some advances from previous inspections including a “considerable improvement in the staffing complement for all disciplines”, including nurses.


However, UHL staff revealed to the Cuddihy family that on the day their father was admitted they were short 20 nurses.



Explaining to RTÉ Investigates, Anne Cuddihy said:


“That really baffles me about the report about staff levels having improved because we were told by people in UHL when we met them that they were down 20 nurses when my dad was in hospital. That does not make sense to me whatsoever.”


The HSE confirmed it will now also conduct a full review of Michael’s case in which the Cuddihy family will be invited to participate.


“Each case is looked at in its own right and two cases are rarely the same. Not every tragic outcome will have the same attributes and the incident management framework allows us to provide some answers to patients and families and to improve our services,” a HSE Mid West spokesperson said.



Earlier this year the Cuddihy’s were told at their meeting with UHL that such a review was not necessary “as all the deficits were identified in the preliminary assessment” and another investigation would not garner any further information. However, the family were contacted this week to say a full review would now take place.

Tonight’s special report for Prime Time is by RTÉ Investigates reporter Aoife Hegarty and producer Doireann O’Hara.


Watch Prime Time tonight Thursday May 23, at 9:35pm on RTÉ One and RTÉ Player and read the digital report at RTÉ.ie/Primetime.


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