For years, Rebecca Collins wondered if she was partly to blame for the death of her baby girl, Hannah, who was delivered stillborn in 2007.
"I spent years wondering, why?" Rebecca told Prime Time, "Something had to cause it." She had been told her daughter's death was a freak, a rare event due to a knot in the umbilical cord.
But Rebecca was haunted by the thought that she had done something wrong; that she had contributed to her baby’s death. "Did I sleep on the wrong side, what could I have done? You do blame yourself. You're looking for answers. You cannot get closure. You are constantly wondering, 'where did I go wrong?’ "
In the High Court on Wednesday, the HSE and the hospital apologised to the Collins family and admitted liability for the death of Hannah, who would have been an oldest sister to the four daughters of Tom and Rebecca Collins.
The HSE’s public apology was crucial to Rebecca. "I was adamant I wanted a public apology," she said. "I needed to hear them say it and, as I sat in the courtroom, I just found it so poignant on International Women's Day that the HSE were here yet again, issuing an apology to another woman that they had failed to take care of in their hospitals."
But no apology will wipe away the pain of the loss of Hannah. People may "talk about closure" Tom said, "I think the only people that really got closure… were the HSE. We have a grave to visit, we have a Christmas every year that we're missing our daughter, and a birthday that we are missing every year. And we have four daughters at home, God bless them, and they've got a big sister that they don’t see" he said.
Rebecca only started to deeply probe what had happened to Hannah after she watched an RTÉ Investigates report on Prime Time in 2015.
"It was by chance," she said. "I was at home and it was a report on the failures of a maternity hospital." That report focussed on failures relating to the monitoring of babies’ heartbeats. Rebecca remembered that a Cardiotocograph (CTG) scan for Hannah had gone on "a lot longer" than it should have. "I just wondered ‘did this happen to me?’ "
Those questions turned into a mission. "I was adamant, I had to get answers. I wasn't going to stop until I found out what happened in my case," Rebecca said. But it turned into long and tough battle. After over two years, she consulted with a lawyer. "I just felt it was just getting too big for me. I needed advice."
Over 15 years after the death of Hannah, the Collins finally won their public admission of liability from the HSE, which said that they "would like to sincerely apologise" for the devastation caused. The HSE also thanked the family for helping it to improve the systems and processes at the hospital where Hannah was delivered.
The ending of the case came just weeks after the passage of a new law, closely associated with the recently deceased health campaigner, Vicky Phelan, which makes disclosure mandatory in the healthcare system.
Rebecca Collins welcomes the move towards more medical transparency. She agrees that it would make a big difference in cases such as hers if hospitals "from the beginning can just be honest and forthcoming with information to their patients."