Surgeon rushing to Limerick hospital to 'save a life' fined

Donal O'Regan

Reporter:

Donal O'Regan

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donal.oregan@limerickleader.ie

Surgeon rushing to Limerick hospital to 'save a life' fined

Surgeon Mekki Medani was travelling to University Hospital Limerick when he was stopped at O'Connell Avenue

A SURGEON rushing to University Hospital Limerick to “save someone’s life” was fined €200 for careless driving at Kilmallock Court.

Mekki Medani, aged 32, of The Strand, O’Callaghan Avenue pleaded not guilty to the offence. The senior registrar admitted that he was speeding after he received an out of hours call that a woman was “critically unwell and needed immediate resuscitation”. The court heard the patient later died.

Garda Brian Duddy said he was parked on Bedford Row in Limerick city at 12.50am on Wednesday, February 24, 2016.

“I observed a car travelling at high speed. I immediately followed the vehicle up O’Connell Street. There were a number of pedestrians in the area. He narrowly avoided hitting an ambulance at a junction,” said Garda Duddy.

Mr Medani was driving at 110kms in a 50km zone through the city centre, said the garda.

“After Bobby Byrnes he increased his speed to 135kms in a 50km zone on O’Connell Avenue. There were a number of vehicles travelling in the opposite direction. I activated the blue lights for Mr Medani to stop which he did.

“I cautioned him to the manner of his driving. He said he was a surgeon on his way to accident and emergency to perform an emergency resuscitation. He showed me his documentation and was allowed to continue his journey,” said Garda Duddy.

Brendan Gill, solicitor for Mr Medani, put it to Garda Duddy that traditionally Tuesday nights were the quietest of the week, traffic was quiet and the number of pedestrians was quite low.

“Yes,” said Garda Duddy.

Mr Gill produced a map, saying O’Connell Street was an extremely straight street and Mr Medani had the right of way.

“Yes,” said Garda Duddy.

The garda agreed with Mr Gill that O’Connell Avenue was a quiet residential area and his client was entirely co-operative.

Garda Duddy said he couldn’t remember if he stopped an ambulance to ask them about Mr Medani but could have, when it was put to him by Mr Gill.

The solicitor said Garda Duddy followed Mr Medani out to the hospital instead of leading him.

“Yes,” said Garda Duddy.

“You accept he was on an emergency?” asked Mr Gill.

“Yes. I took him at his word,” said Garda Duddy.

“Any particular reason he wasn’t given an escort as time was of the essence?” asked Mr Gill.

“No particular reason,” said Garda Duddy.

Mr Medani took the stand and said he was the senior registrar on call for surgery on the night in question.

“If I am required after midnight I receive a call. On that night I received a call that a lady was critically unwell and needed immediate resuscitation and surgery if required,” said Mr Medani, who added that he reacted “with haste”.

“I have driven that road hundreds of time. I admit I was speeding. I didn’t break any lights. The ambulance was stopped at a stop sign,” said Mr Medani.

A letter from a consultant in University Hospital Limerick confirming a lady was critically unwell was handed into court. The court heard the woman passed away 12 hours later.

Mr Gill put it to Mr Medani that time was of the essence.

“Most certainly,” said Mr Medani.

“How long were you detained?” asked Mr Gill.

“About five minutes. The garda stopped an ambulance to talk to them. He came back and said, ‘You’re not getting away with this’. I said, ‘I didn’t want to get away with it’, ” said Mr Medani. The senior registrar said he was “was in full control and was acutely aware of everything”.

Under cross examination from Sergeant Michelle Leahy, Mr Medani said he was driving at 100kms and not 135kms on O’Connell Avenue.

Sgt Leahy said that was still double the speed limit.

“What if a car came out of a side street or a pedestrian walked out?” asked Sgt Leahy.

“They were few and far between. I accept I was speeding, I would have been able to stop,” said Mr Medani.

Sgt Leahy said it is accepted there was an emergency but he could have contacted gardai for an escort to the hospital.

“His speed was excessive. He was a danger not only to other road users but to himself,” said Sgt Leahy.

Mr Gill said obtaining a garda escort was not a realistic option. “He made a quick decision, in essence, to save someone’s life,” said Mr Gill.

Sgt Leahy said garda escorts are frequently asked for and Garda Duddy was in Bedford Row.

Mr Gill said after Mr Medani was stopped he was still followed to the hospital. Sgt Leahy said he didn’t ask for a garda escort.

Judge Marian O’Leary said there were no exemptions for careless driving.

“Taken at its lowest it was twice the speed limit, at its highest it was two and a half times,” said Judge O’Leary, who expressed concerns that Mr Medani would not have been able to react if an incident arose. She used her discretion not to disqualify Mr Medani and fined him €200. Recognaissance was fixed in the event of an appeal.