More witnesses to testify at Kivlehan inquest

Wednesday 13 August 2014 16.13
Dhara Kivlehan died from multi-organ failure in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital in 2010
Dhara Kivlehan died from multi-organ failure in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital in 2010

A coroner has agreed to almost treble the number of witnesses for an inquest into the death of a woman who died days after giving birth.

Dhara Kivlehan, 28 and originally from India, died from multi-organ failure in Belfast's Royal Victoria Hospital on 28 September 2010 after suffering a severe strain of pre-eclampsia.

She had been airlifted four days earlier from Sligo General Hospital.

Widower Michael Kivlehan, 34, accused the coroner in Leitrim, Eamon MacGowan, of presiding over a cover-up at a preliminary hearing last month after he initially said he would call six medics.

The coroner revised his plans, offering to hear evidence from 17 witnesses and asking for recommendations, after family lawyers threatened to challenge him in the High Court.

Twelve doctors and seven midwives were involved in Ms Kivlehan's care in Sligo, as well as a number of doctors and nurses in Belfast.

Mr Kivlehan's lawyers, Callan Tansey based in Sligo, said the development is a positive step forward.

Mr MacGowan originally offered to hear from two doctors from Sligo, two doctors from the Royal in Belfast, Mr Kivlehan and Dr Peter Boylan, the former master of Holles Street and a consultant obstetrician.

Dr Boylan gave evidence as an expert witness in the inquest into the death of Indian dentist Savita Halappanavar, who died in hospital in Galway in October 2012 after suffering a miscarriage and blood poisoning.

The deaths and care of the two Indian women in hospital have drawn parallels.

The inquest is due to begin in Carrick-on-Shannon courthouse on 22 September - a day after the couple's son Dior celebrates his fourth birthday.

Mr Kivlehan had pressed Mr MacGowan to take the same approach as Belfast coroner John Leckey, who suggested 24 witnesses would be called when an inquest was opened in Northern Ireland.

The hearing was moved to the Republic of Ireland amid concern that medics from Sligo could not be compelled north of the border and after Attorney General Maire Whelan intervened to ask Dr Leckey if he would agree to a change in jurisdiction.

Mr Kivlehan and son Dior were awarded almost €1m last year after the Health Service Executive apologised for shortcomings in the young mother's care.

The couple met in London in 2002 where Ms Kivlehan was studying fashion and Mr Kivlehan was working.

They moved to Co Leitrim and married in 2005. They planned to bring up a family where Mr Kivlehan was reared.

Ms Kivlehan was suffering from a severe variant of pre-eclampsia called Hellp (Haemolysis, Elevated Liver Enzymes and Low Platelets) in Sligo and was airlifted to Belfast.

A preliminary hearing has been told that medics in Sligo said "it's only a matter of time" when she was being transferred into an air ambulance for treatment in the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Ms Kivlehan was two weeks over her due date when she arrived at Sligo General on 20 September in labour.

The results of blood tests taken that afternoon, which showed "grossly abnormal liver function and grossly abnormal kidney function", were not followed up by her doctors or reported back by the laboratory for another 12 hours.

Baby Dior was delivered by C-section shortly before 6am the following day.

The hearing was told two doctors in Sligo agreed that the emergency procedure was needed to deliver the baby and then Ms Kivlehan should be treated in intensive care.

The civil action last year heard she was transferred to a side room off the maternity ward for a day-and-a-half with no specialist care before being moved to intensive care.