HSE Apologises for Fatal Negligence After Birth

The HSE has apologised to the family of a woman whose care after the birth of her child was described as “negligent”, leading to her death.

In September 2010, Dhara Kivlehan (29) was admitted to Sligo General Hospital to deliver her first child. Dhara had been experiencing painless contractions for two days before she was admitted. She was two weeks past her due date, and on examination, it was revealed that she was exhibiting high blood pressure and fluid retention around her ankles (oedema)-signs of pre-eclampsia.

Dhara had blood taken, and tests of the blood that she had abnormal kidney and liver function (which further suggested that she was pre-eclamptic). No action was taken by the medical staff due to the results of these tests not being communicated to Dhara’s doctors for twelve hours. The morning following her admission, Dhara had an emergency Caesarean Section performed to deliver her son-Dior. She was later transferred to a side room off the main Maternity Ward.

Dhara’s condition began to deteriorate, but it was not until 4:45pm the following dat that she was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit at Sligo General Hospital. At 11:00pm that evening, Dhara’s condition was considered critical. She was air-lifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast to receive specialist treatment.

Dhara experienced multiple organ failure secondary and HELLP syndrome-a variant of pre-eclampsia, and as a result died four days later. Both the Belfast coroner and the Sligo coroner have declined requests to conduct post-mortems to investigate the incident.

Dhara’s husband-Michael-believed that the symptoms of haemolysis, elevated liver enzymes and a low platelet count were not identified and treated in time to prevent his wife’s death. He made a compensation claim for fatal hospital errors against the Health Service Executive (HSE)-alleging that the Sligo General Hospital had breached its duty of care and that the care that Dhara received was negligent and inadequate.

The defendants denied that there had been a failure in the duty of care by the hospital, and a court hearing was scheduled to determine whether the HSE had a case to answer. Just prior to this case was due to be presented in court, the HSE acknowledged shortcomings in the care provided for Dhara both before and after the birth of Dior. An €80,000 settlement of compensation for fatal hospital errors was negotiated between the parties.

At the High Court in Dublin, the family heard a statement read to them in which the HSE apologised for the errors that had been made which led to Dhara’s death, and offered their condolences to Michael and Dior.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine approved the settlement, and criticised the HSE for “holding out until almost the bitter end” before admitting liability, and consequently causing the Kivlehan family unnecessary distress.