Maternity hospital apologises to family of mum Marie Downey who died with her newborn son after suffering seizure

A maternity hospital publicly apologised to the husband and family of a mother-of-three who died alongside her newborn baby boy after she fell out of a hospital bed having apparently suffered a seizure.

he apology to the family of Marie Downey (36) was issued as Cork Coroner Philip Comyn adjourned the inquest into the two deaths following extensive legal argument.

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, whom she was nursing.

The infant died the following day.

Mrs Downey suffered fatal injuries and was pronounced dead shortly after she was discovered.

Her husband, Kieran, briefly addressed the inquest before it was adjourned to stress that he and his family “have had two and a half years of pain.”

No medical evidence was heard before the inquest was adjourned.

An 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”.

The inquest was adjourned until September 23 despite objections raised by the Downeys’ legal team led by Dr John O’Mahony SC and Doireann
O’Mahony BL.

Ms O’Mahony challenged why an eleventh hour application was made to have a key external report into the events of March 25 2019 omitted from the inquest evidence. It was omitted following lengthy legal submissions to the coroner.

Dr O’Mahony insisted his “displeasure” be noted – and queried whether HSE commitment to transparency were in fact merely “empty words”.

On behalf of the Downey family, he said they accepted the apology and thanked the “makers of the apology”.

“However, it should be clear that the ‘trampassing’ of transparency by the HSE is something that we’re all familiar with. It’s such a pity and I have to express the view that transparency has not been visited on this inquiry.”

He urged that the inquest be resumed as a priority.

Dr O’Mahony said it needed to be dealt with before December given the “devastating impact” and “enormous suffering” the tragedy had caused
for the family.

Mr Comyn agreed to have a stenographer present for the resumed hearing and to consider whether expert neurological evidence was now required.

The coroner said the adjournment was unavoidable. “I regret to say that the only appropriate way to deal with this matter is to adjourn it. It is with great regret that I have to decide to adjourn the matter,” he said.

Mr Comyn said he was mindful of what the family had endured and he had great sympathy for them.

However, he said that given the logistical issues involved, he could not give a specific hearing date and adjourned the matter to September 23 for mention.

The external report – which was at the centre of the legal submissions – made 11 key recommendations and found that Mrs Downey’s care was not
in line with HSE recommendations.

Two reviews were launched into the circumstances of the double tragedy – one external review was ordered by then Health Minister Simon Harris
and the second by the hospital group itself.

The external review was chaired by Prof Norman Delanty, consultant neurologist at Beaumont Hospital in Dublin. It began in May 2019 and was completed last April.

The external review found that “the care delivered…during her pregnancy and in the postpartum period was not in line with the recommendations of HSE 2018 Practice Guide for Women With Epilepsy (WWE).”

It is understood CUMH has accepted all 11 of the review recommendations.

Two years ago, Mrs Downey was buried with her infant son, Darragh, cradled in her arms.

Mr Downey 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 and sons 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.

The offertory gifts reflected the deep passions of Mrs Downey’s life who adored sports – and four GAA jerseys from Ballyagran, Kildorrery, Douglas and Limerick were brought to the altar.

Also offered was a photo taken in CUMH when little Darragh met his two big brothers for the first time.

Mourners were told that tears of joy at the birth of little Darragh on Friday evening had turned to tears of anguish, pain and despair by Monday morning when Mrs Downey was found unconscious on the floor of her room in CUMH.

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