A FATHER of three who lost his wife and newborn son after she fell out of a hospital bed having suffered a seizure has appealed to the Health Service Executive (HSE) to allow an external report into the tragedy to be included in evidence at their inquest.
ieran Downey’s appeal came as the inquest into the death of his wife, Marie (36), and baby son, Darragh, was again adjourned.
Mrs Downey was a mother of three who suffered from epilepsy and died at Cork University Maternity Hospital (CUMH) on March 25 2019.
She apparently suffered a seizure and fell out of bed – tragically falling on her newborn son, Darragh, who she was nursing at the time. The infant died the following day.
Mrs Downey suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced dead shortly after she was discovered.
Her husband, Kieran, has now urged the HSE to agree to allow the Systems Analysis Review conducted into the tragedy to be entered into evidence at the inquest.
Mr Downey said there was a “cascade of events” before the tragedy. Previously he warned that his family had endured “two and a half years of pain.”
Last month, Cork Coroner Philip Comyn opened the inquest into the death of the mother and son but adjourned it following legal submissions over the admissibility of the review.
Mr Comyn ruled the inquest could go ahead without the review – but then postponed the hearing following strenuous objections from the legal team acting for the Downey family. No medical evidence has been heard to date.
Junior counsel for the family, Doireann O’Mahony BL, said that Mr Downey’s “only remaining hope” is that no other family will have to endure a similar tragedy.
“But this will only be possible with a full and thorough investigation which leaves no stone unturned,” she said.
“We are now formally calling on the HSE to agree to the admission into evidence of the Systems Analysis Review report.”
“We are told that the report has been accepted in full and that all eleven of its recommendations are to be implemented. We see no reason whatsoever then why the HSE should not honour its commitment to open disclosure and consent to the report forming part of the documentation at the hearing.”
“This is a matter of significant public importance. The report will draw attention to the existence of circumstances which, if left unremedied, might lead to further deaths.”
Solicitor for the HSE, Eamonn Harrington, strongly rejected any suggestion that there was anything but full disclosure in relation to the “tragic incident.”
Mr Harrington said that HSE was committed to open disclosure and that immediate action was taken following the tragic deaths of the mother and son.
The inquest heard that a full external review was carried out in relation to the deaths which was shared with the family of the deceased.
He said a ruling on the admissibility of the report had already been made by Mr Comyn.
The coroner said that he had given a written judgement which outlined his reasons for not allowing the review to be admitted into evidence.
Mr Comyn said he fully understood Mr Downey’s position of not wanting to see other families suffer losses such as his own.
The coroner said that he hoped to have the inquest heard over the week of November 16 once venues and other logistical matters are confirmed.
A jury will now hear the inquest and a stenographer will be present.
Last month, a full apology was read out by Conor Halpin SC on behalf of CUMH and the South-Southwest Hospital Group.
The apology was addressed to Kieran Downey and Mrs Downey’s children, James and Sean, as well as her extended family.
“We cannot possibly comprehend the devastating impact these losses have had on you and your family,” it said.
“We have carefully reviewed the management of Marie’s case along with a formal external review of which you were part. We have taken a number of steps with the ultimate aim of ensuring the safety of our patients at all times in CUMH.”
“On behalf of all the staff of CUMH especially, those whom were involved in care of Marie and baby Darragh, we are truly sorry and wish to express our deepest sympathies.”
Mrs Downey’s consultant associated herself with the CUMH statement and expressed her own personal “deepest regret and sadness”.
Two years ago, Mrs Downey was buried with her infant son, Darragh, cradled in her arms. Her husband, Kieran, hailed them at the Requiem Mass as their family’s new “special angels.”
Mrs Downey nee Cullinane was brought up in a GAA-obsessed Limerick parish of Ballyagran – and lived with her husband, Kieran, and two older sons, James and Sean, in nearby Knockanevin outside Kildorrery.
Mourners were told two years ago that Mrs Downey was “a beautiful person inside and out.”
“She had a heart of gold. She always put us first. Herself and Darragh are our special angels now,” Mr Downey said.