Misdiagnosis in child and adolescent mental health services

Trusted legal support for mental health misdiagnosis in children and adolescents

At Gibson & Associates LLP, we understand how worrying it can be when a child’s mental health is at stake. Placing trust in medical professionals, only to encounter misdiagnosis or delayed treatment, can be an immensely distressing experience for families. Our dedicated medical negligence team can provide expert legal advice about making a claim for financial compensation, which can help you access further treatment, while acknowledging the impact the misdiagnosis or treatment delay has had on your child and your family.

Mental health misdiagnosis in children and adolescents

Discovering your child or adolescent is struggling with mental health issues can be challenging for any family. We all want the best for our children, and we trust our mental health services to provide the support they need to thrive and reach their full potential. However, when a doctor fails in their duty of care, the impact can be profound. Feelings of anger, frustration, and anguish can overwhelm both your child and family.

Healthcare professionals are expected to deliver a certain standard of care. However, when the standard of care falls below what is expected, it can result in medical negligence.

Misdiagnosis is one example of medical negligence in a mental healthcare setting, where a physician misses the signs and symptoms of the mental illness and fails to diagnose it. This can cause the patient’s mental health to decline, and even lead to long-term consequences.

A delay in diagnosis can also cause a decline in the patient’s mental health, and possibly permanent damage, by denying them the treatment they need, when they need it.

When a healthcare professional gets a diagnosis wrong, they might prescribe treatments and medicines that not only fail to address the real issue but may also cause further harm. The wrong treatment could cause adverse side effects and health complications, prolonging the child’s suffering.

A misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis or incorrect diagnosis of a mental health condition can deeply impact the well-being of a child and their family unit. If you have been let down by your healthcare practitioner, reach out for a confidential discussion to find out about your legal options. Call us on 01 264 5555.

CAHMS and the Maskey Review

The HSE’s Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) has been at the centre of medical negligence claims, which were detailed in the Maskey Review of care provided by South Kerry CAMHS between July 2016 and April 2021.

The Maskey Review revealed a total of 240 children and young people had been exposed to harm due to “unreliable diagnoses, inappropriate prescriptions and poor monitoring of treatment and potential adverse effects”.

The review found 194 patients experiencing substandard care, and 46 experiencing significant harm, including sedation, weight gain and higher blood pressure than normal, after receiving the wrong medication. A number of medical records were also found to missing.

In a July 2023 independent report into CAHMS, the Mental Health Commission’s Inspector of Mental Health Services, Dr Susan Finnerty, delivered 49 recommendations for CAHMs, as well the development of a comprehensive strategy for this and other mental health services for children and young people, for approval by the HSE Board.

At the time of delivering her final report, Dr Finnerty could not provide an assurance that CAHMS offers “access to a safe, effective and evidence-based mental health service.”

Making a claim for a mental health misdiagnosis

The Irish Constitution of 1937 safeguards people from having their health put at risk by the State, as well as the right to bodily integrity.

Further, the HSE and other State agencies are bound by the European Convention on Human Rights, which ensures people cannot be discriminated against based on their religious beliefs, gender, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability, age, race, nationality and membership of a traveller community.

If you believe that you, or your child, have experienced harm while under the care of CAHMS, you may be entitled to make a claim for compensation. For a confidential discussion about your circumstances, please don’t hesitate to call us on 01 264 5555.

About Gibson & Associates LLP

We strive to get the very best outcome for your child and your family.

Medical negligence can take an immense toll on you physically, emotionally and financially. Our experienced medical negligence team understands what you and your family are going through, and is committed to making sure your voice is heard and that your child’s rights are protected. We recognise that every situation is unique and tailor our approach to meet your circumstances to achieve the very best possible outcome.

When you choose Gibson & Associates LLP, you benefit from the expertise and resources of a large firm with the understanding and personalised attention of a smaller one. Our nationwide team can support you no matter where you are located in Ireland. For a confidential discussion about your situation, please call us on 01 264 5555.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I prove a mental health misdiagnosis?

If you are considering making a claim for financial compensation on behalf of your child for a mental health misdiagnosis, delayed diagnosis or the wrong diagnosis, you will need to prove:

  • That your child or adolescent received substandard care from a mental health professional; and
  • That the substandard care injured or harmed your child.

Our highly experienced medical negligence team will support you to gather evidence, such as your medical records and correspondence. We may also call on a medical expert for their opinion of the care your child received.

Is there a time limit on making a claim?

Typically, medical negligence claims have a two-year time limit, which means the claim has to be submitted within two years of the medical negligence taking place. However, the two-year time limit is dependent on a range of factors such as when you realised your child had been harmed, that it was the result of medical negligence, or when you understood who was responsible for the medical negligence.

The two-year time limit is also counted from the time your child turns 18, giving them, or you, until they turn 20 to make a claim for financial compensation.

What will compensation cover?

Compensation can be awarded based on the impact (e.g., pain and suffering) the misdiagnosis had on the child and your family, and costs for medical treatments, therapy and other costs that you might have incurred as a result of the misdiagnosis.

How can I access my child’s medical records?

As a parent or guardian, you can request a copy of your child’s medical records from the clinic, facility or medical professional that treated them under the Freedom of Information Act.

Alternatively, we can arrange to obtain a copy of your records on your behalf; to do so, you will need to sign an authority form that gives us permission to obtain your child’s records.