Private email ended up being circulated to entire hospital – Court finds contents to be defamatory
The Court has found that a private email sent by a patient to the ‘Parentcrafts’ group was defamatory, despite the fact that the person being referred to was not named.
The case dates back to 2010, when the gynecologist of a woman expecting a baby referred her to have a Caesarean in the 36th week of her pregnancy at a private hospital where he operated.
The woman gave birth to a girl, and both she and the baby were released from the hospital a few days later in good health, but when the baby was a month old, the mother noticed that her child was not breathing properly during feeding, and therefore had to be admitted to hospital where she was kept for five days.
The mother was informed that her daughter had a condition which sometimes develops when a baby is born prematurely. She then felt the need to send an email to Parentcraft – the midwives’ association at Mater Dei – to warn them about her case, and claiming that she had been “forced” to give birth prematurely. She added that she was not the only patient under the care of the same gynecologist who had experienced this. She said that she did not wish any other mother or baby to go through what she and her child had needlessly gone through.
The email was circulated around the entire hospital and ended up in the hands of the gynecologist who confronted his client who told him that she had not intended for the email to be shared in this way. A year later, the doctor received a legal letter from his former patient asking for damages to be paid for what she had suffered. It was at this point that the gynecologist filed a lawsuit against the patient.
The Court found that the contents of the email were libellous and defamatory and the woman was asked to pay the doctor the sum of €1,000 in damages.