A Tipperary family has received two separate apologies in the High Court after a father and son died 16 months apart as a result in failings in their medical care.
The High Court approved settlements in the case of the Lonergan family from Cashel after the deaths of 74-year-old Eddie Lonergan in 2013 and his son PJ the following year.
Eddie Lonergan took his own life a day after he was discharged from the psychiatric unit of St Luke's Hospital in Kilkenny.
Sixteen months later, his 39-year-old son PJ died from a heart attack after he was wrongly discharged from the emergency department of South Tipperary General Hospital while suffering from an infection of his heart muscle.
The court heard that in January 2013 Eddie Lonergan was admitted to South Tipperary General Hospital and spent several days there, before being transferred as an emergency psychiatric patient to St Luke's.
However, he was discharged the next day.
He then disappeared from his home and was found dead a day later having taken his own life.
The family's lawyers told the court today his discharge from the hospital was wholly unsatisfactory and should never have happened.
Barristers for the hospital apologised to his wife Esther and the family for the shortcomings in his care leading up to his death.
Mr Justice Kevin Cross approved an award of the statutory amount of damages for wrongful death of just over €25,000.
Esther Lonergan says apologies over the deaths of her husband and son took too long pic.twitter.com/eNlt2EQUys— RTÉ News (@rtenews) January 18, 2018
Mrs Lonergan has also settled a case against the HSE, but the terms were not before the court today.
In a separate case, the High Court also heard that in May 2014, PJ Lonergan died from a heart attack a day after he was discharged from the emergency department at South Tipperary General Hospital.
The court was told that an ECG showed he was suffering from myocarditis, an infection of the heart muscle, when referred there by his doctor.
He was discharged when a second ECG showed a slight improvement, but he died at home the following day from a heart attack.
Lawyers for his son Mark, who sued for negligence, told the court PJ Lonergan should not have been discharged and medical experts said he would not have had a heart attack the following day if proper treatment had been given in the hospital, or if it had happened in the hospital, he would have had a 20-30% chance of survival and full recovery.
In court, lawyers for the hospital read out an apology for the "shortcomings in the care of PJ Lonergan".
The hospital offered its "sincere sympathy and condolence" on his death and acknowledged that it had been "a source of distress", adding "we are really sorry".
The court approved a settlement in favour of PJ Lonergan's son Mark for €900,000.
Mr Justice Kevin Cross noted the apologies and said he hoped this close knit and caring family could move on with their lives.
The solicitor for the Lonergan family said the health service is in a position to inquire into an adverse event and if it finds out it is at fault it has an obligation to communicate this to a family and apologise, but that this does not happen.
Speaking on RTÉ's Six One, Cian O'Carroll said it has taken a legal challenge to hear an apology.
He said the State has not shown interest in investigating the root causes of the medical disaster in PJ's case and he believes there is no reason the same mistake will not reoccur.
Mr O'Carroll said the institution needs to learn a lesson and there is no system where clinical reviews are undertaken in hospitals. "It seems as if the State's health service is turning it's face against learning," he said.
"The institution has to learn a lesson; the system has to learn, and there is no system at present in Ireland that I can see.
"Case after case, we see of fatal injuries and serious injuries where the hospital does not conduct a clinical review even, and without a clinical review - where you look at what you did and try to find out how to do it better - well then, it seems as if the State's health service is turning its face against learning."