A High Court judge has approved a settlement of hospital negligence compensation for death following childbirth after hearing the tragic story of Dhara Kivlehan, who died shortly after giving birth to her first child.
Dhara (29) had been admitted to Sligo General Hospital on 20th September 2010 for the delivery of her first child – Dior. At the time of her admission, she was two weeks passed her due date and exhibiting symptoms consistent with pre-eclampsia – high blood pressure and fluid retention around the feet and ankles (oedema).
Blood test conducted on Dhara showed that she had abnormal liver and kidney function (a further symptom of pre-eclampsia), but the results of the blood test were not communicated to Dhara´s doctors for a further twelve hours. The morning following her admission, Dhara gave birth to her son, and was transferred to a side room.
It was during Dhara´s thirty-six hours in the side room that her condition deteriorated and she was transferred to the Intensive Care Unit at Sligo General Hospital at 4.45pm the day after giving birth. At 11.00pm that night, Dhara´s condition became critical, and she was air-lifted to the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast, where she died of multiple organ failure four days later.
Dhara´s husband – Michael Kivlehan from Dromahair, County Sligo – believed that the treatment Dhara had received in the side room of the maternity unit had been inadequate as his wife´s condition deteriorated, and made a claim for hospital negligence compensation for death following childbirth against the Health Service Executive (HSE).
The HSE denied that there had been a failure by the Sligo General Hospital to acknowledge the significance and severity of Dhara´s deterioration or to treat her appropriately, and a trial date was scheduled for the case to be heard in court.
However, shortly before the family´s claim for hospital negligence compensation for death following childbirth was due to be heard, the HSE admitted that there had been shortcomings in the care provided for Dhara and a settlement of hospital negligence compensation was negotiated.
At the High Court in Dublin, Ms Justice Mary Irvine heard an apology from the HSE read out to the family before approving the agreed settlement of €800,000. The judge expressed her sympathy to Michael and Dior – who were in court for the approval hearing – but she also criticised the HSE for “holding out until almost the bitter end” before admitting liability and for causing the family unnecessary distress.